Thursday, October 4, 2007

Major Changes to Texas Family Code related to Child Support

Effective September 1, 2007, approximately 375 changes were made to the Texas Family Code. Although too numerous to mention at length here, the vast majority relate to the parent-child relationship, including extended visitation schedules, amended child support guidelines, and enforcement/collection procedures related to child support.

Essentially, all orders (including modifications) or decrees entered after September 1st will incorporate the following regarding Child Support:
  • Income withholding for payment of child support is mandatory – no exceptions.
  • Severance pay and “lump sum” payments (which arguably include commissions or regularly-scheduled bonuses) are now included in income withholding orders.
  • Severance pay and “lump sum” payments (which arguably include commissions or regularly-scheduled bonuses) are now included in income withholding orders.
  • The “cap” on the amount of child support awarded under the Statutory Guidelines has been raised, with an automatic adjustment to take place every six years. For example, the “maximum” monthly support (in the absence of extraordinary circumstances) for one child has increased from $1,200 to $1,500.
  • In addition to child support under the Statutory Guidelines, “cash medical support” must be paid by the obligor if the obligee provides health insurance coverage for the child.
  • Income withholding also governs any award of “cash medical support.”
  • Child support for a high school student who is more than 18 years old will terminate if a court finds that the child has failed to meet school attendance requirements. The obligation of support will also end on the date that the child begins active military service.
  • Any unpaid child support obligations become due on the date the obligor dies, and the obligation is payable by the obligor’s probate estate (although it can be secured by appropriate life insurance). Actions to enforce payment by the obligor’s estate can be brought in an appropriate family court.
  • The deadline to bring an enforcement proceeding for any arrearage is extended to two years after the child support obligation ended.
  • All state-issued licenses, as well as motor vehicle registrations, may be suspended and renewal may be denied if the applicant has failed to pay child support for several months. An unpaid arrearage may also prevent an obligor from receiving state grants, state loans or payments on state contracts.

The foregoing items are only some of the important changes made under Texas law affecting parents and their children. If you have not reviewed your orders or decrees in the recent past, we recommend that you consult with a family practitioner or seek other legal guidance regarding the possible effect of these statutory changes on your respective rights and duties.