Child Support Obligations

Divorce can be a messy and complicated affair, especially when children are involved. Once the court has determined custody arrangements, the custodial parent might want to seek child support from the noncustodial parent. Here is a guide on how to navigate the process:

Steps for Seeking Child Support Payments

 1. Before the custodial parent can obtain child support, he or she must locate the noncustodial parent. Complications arise when the child was born out of wedlock.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario to consider: a man marries a woman who already has a child. The couple divorces. The woman wants the man to pay child support. She claims that he is the child’s biological father.

According to Texas law, a child born out of wedlock does not have a legal relationship with his or her father. To establish this relationship, the parents can file a form voluntarily acknowledging paternity or petition the court to determine the father’s identity. In this hypothetical, the man refuses to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, so the court will order a DNA test to determine whether or not he is the father.

2. To obtain a child support order, the custodial parent must file a petition in family court. The court considers the noncustodial parent’s income and assets, as well as the number of children involved. If the parent fails to make a payment, the court can order him or her to pay up their past payment obligations. The noncustodial parent could also be ordered to participate in a work program or sentenced to jail.  He or she might face suspension of state-issued professional licenses.

In the previous hypothetical, the court ordered the DNA test to establish paternity. After the test results came back positive, the mother filed a petition seeking child support. The court determined the father’s payment obligations, but he refused to pay for a period of several months until he learned that he could lose his teacher’s license, a step that would end his career.

3. The custodial parent may also seek health insurance coverage of the child through the noncustodial parent. This can be included in the child support order.

In the above hypothetical, the father has better health insurance coverage through his employer than the mother, who is self-employed. For that reason, she successfully petitioned to have their child included in the father’s insurance.

4. If either parent’s financial circumstances have materially changed, they can petition the court to modify the child support order.

Five years after the court issued the initial child support order, the father was laid off. Now he works in a grocery store and is earning substantially less. In addition, his health insurance coverage is much worse. He petitions the court to modify his child support obligations. The court finds that the father’s financial circumstances have materially changed and therefore modifies the order to reflect the parents’ existing income levels. If the father obtains a better-paying job in the future, then either he or the mother can petition for a new modification.

For help navigating the child support process or any other family law issues, contact our experienced family law attorneys today.