Portrait of John K Grubb

Texas Divorce and Prenuptial Agreement

4550 Post Oak Place, Suite 201 • Houston, Texas 77027-3139

Phone: 713-877-8800 • Fax: 713-877-1229

How Does Job Loss Affect Child Support?

Although Houston has been relatively insulated from economic downturns for the past several years, people can and do lose their jobs for various reasons. Divorced, non-custodial parents often want to know if they must pay the Court ordered child support during a period of unemployment. In general, the answer is yes.

A non-custodial parent cannot arbitrarily lower or suspend the child support stated in the court order. Texas does not favorably view child support non-payment, and offers very few defenses. The law does, however, provide an “inability to comply” defense, but has 4 conditions that must be met.

  1. You lack the ability to pay the court ordered amount
  2. You don’t have property that you can sell, mortgage, or otherwise use to raise the funds
  3. You weren’t successful in borrowing funds
  4. You don’t know of any other sources to either borrow or legally obtain the funds

Modification to court ordered child support can only be made by obtaining a new court order. An agreement with your ex-spouse, even if written, is not valid. If you don’t obtain a new court order, you could be held in contempt of court and assessed fines and/or serve jail time.

The Texas Family Code provides for modification of court ordered child support payments if there is a material change in your circumstances since the last order was set. There are two avenues in seeking a change to your child support payments: 1) by going back to court or 2) using the child support review process. Either way, changes must be approved by the Harris County Family Court in Houston.

If you’ve lost your job, it’s likely that your child support payment will be recalculated. This process considers your past employment, your ability to work and earn income, and the current federal minimum wage among other things. You will be required to provide information about your income and health insurance costs for your children’s coverage, if applicable. You will be asked for pay stubs and back tax forms that you filed, and may have to provide a letter of intent to employ that includes your compensation if you have found a prospective employer.

If you have filed for unemployment and have been awarded benefits, the Texas Workforce Commission will withhold up to 50% of your unemployment benefits to meet your child support obligations. It’s important for you to work with both the Court and your ex-spouse if you are ineligible for unemployment.

Your loss of employment is stressful to you, your children, and your ex-spouse. During this time, you should continue your search for employment, documenting your search. Offer to help out your ex-spouse with the care of your children, such as taking or picking them from school or to extracurricular activities. You should also research and apply for any additional benefits available to you and your children.

It is likely that the amount you pay in child support will be modified if you have had a “material and substantial change in circumstance.” The divorce attorney in Houston that handled your case will be able to help you in this process to ensure compliance with the many regulations and procedures required by The Child Support Division of Texas’ Office of the Attorney General.

John K. Grubb & Associates, P.C.
Houston Divorce Attorneys

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