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How Does Child Support Work If My Ex is Unemployed?

Who Pays Child Support After a Divorce in Texas?

The Texas Family Code states that the court can order either or both parents to pay child support following a divorce. However, in most situations where parents share custody and visitation, the non-custodial parent pays support to the custodial parent. The paying parent is also known as the possessory conservator, while the receiving one is the managing conservator.

Unfortunately, the unexpected can happen, and the possessory conservator may lose their source of income. What happens in such a situation, and how should the managing conservator proceed? The first crucial step would be to consult an experienced divorce attorney in Houston for legal counsel and representation.

What Does Child Support Look Like When the Non-Custodial Parent is Employed?

It’s crucial to understand how child support is calculated in Texas to understand what would happen if your ex-spouse lost their job as the possessory conservator. The guidelines look as follows:

  • 20 percent of the income for one child
  • 25 percent of the income for two children
  • 30 percent of the income for three children
  • 35 percent of the income for four children
  • 40 percent of the income for five or more children

When your ex-spouse is unemployed, a percentage of their net come income could be zero. A skilled child support lawyer in Houston takes you through your options.

My Ex-Spouse Lost Their Job. What Happens to Child Support?

Unemployment and child support can be contentious, mainly when the child relies on that payment for food and shelter. However, losing a job or being unemployed doesn’t absolve a parent of their duties to pay child support. They should contact a Houston child support attorney for a consultation on their options.

File a Petition for Child Support Modification

Most parents who pay child support would feel devastated if they lost their jobs. To keep up with their parental obligations, they should inform a Texas court about their unemployment as soon as possible. Since the court expects that they still make child support payments, it can modify the original child support order to accommodate the changes.

Avoid making an informal side arrangement with your ex-spouse even if you still have a good relationship with them. Courts don’t recognize informal agreements, which could work against you later when it comes to the court’s attention. An informal arrangement keeps the original amount ordered by the court the same. Consult a Houston child support lawyer before agreeing informally.

What Factors will the Court Consider When Modifying a Child Support Order?

During the modification hearing, the court will consider arguments from both sides and pay attention to the reason for the request to reduce the child support amount. The court will then determine whether to grant the request for a lesser amount and how much to reduce the payments.

Your ex-spouse must present solid evidence as to why they’re unemployed. Did they quit their job, were they fired, or were there massive layoffs at their place of work? The court will also want evidence that they’re actively looking for work.

Did Your Ex-Spouse Quit Employment to Stop Paying Child Support?

If the court establishes that your ex-spouse intentionally stopped working to avoid paying child support, it will order them to continue with their child support obligation based on their past earning potential. Having no income under such circumstances doesn’t change the fact that they still owe child support.

Did Your Ex-Spouse Quit Employment to Pursue Full-Time Education?

While it’s commendable for a parent to pursue an education or obtain a professional license that can allow them to earn a better income, it should not be at the expense of the child. If the parent was a full-time student at the time of the original child support order, the court could use the formula for child support based on the minimum wage and a 40-hour workweek.

Approach to Making Child Support Reductions

When determining the amount your ex-spouse will be obligated to pay after unemployment, the court may consider two primary options:

Reductions Based on Past Earnings

If your ex-spouse has no income at the time of the modification hearing, the court will consider the modified child support amount considering the following factors:

  • The amount your ex-spouse earned at their last job
  • Their current ability to work and get an income
  • The federal minimum wage

In making its calculations, the court will also weigh the standards and circumstantial factors influencing child support reduction.

Reductions Based on Unemployment Benefits

In some circumstances, a court could order that child support be deducted from the unemployment benefits granted by their previous employer. The court will order that a certain amount be garnished from their monthly unemployment benefits and directed to you. The court can withhold up to 50% of the unemployment earnings for child support.

If your ex-spouse later finds employment, this order can again be modified to reflect the employment status. They will be required to pay child support as per the guidelines above.

An Experienced Professional Helping You Fight for Your Child’s Rights

If your ex-spouse loses their job, it’s natural to worry about what will happen to the child support payments they’re responsible for paying. However, there are legal ways to remedy the situation, and a skilled Houston divorce attorney can provide legal guidance on what should happen.

The most appropriate recourse would be to have the court modify the original child support order to ensure your ex-spouse continues with their parental obligations. Our law firm’s skilled child custody lawyer can help ensure this happens in good time to protect your child’s rights. Contact the Von Dohlen Law Firm at (713) 844-8396 for a FREE consultation.

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