When parents with young children end their marriage, the child support provisions from the original divorce decree can change several times before their child is out of high school.

Circumstances for the child or either parent can change at any time, resulting in the need to have payments modified – reduced or increased. However, a judge generally must sign off on any adjustment even if both parents agree to the change.

Eligibility for support modifications

Child support orders in the Lone Star State can be modified only if one or more of the following situations exist:

  1. The order was put in place or last modified more than three years before the new request
  2. The monthly amount calculated under Texas Family Code guidelines changes by 20% or at least $100
  3. A “material and substantial” change has happened since the previous order was established

What constitutes a “material and substantial” change?

While Texas law does not stipulate specific instances, modifications are typically considered when:

  • The noncustodial parent’s income decreases or increases
  • The noncustodial parent becomes responsible for additional children
  • Significant changes occur in the cost of the child’s health insurance coverage
  • Unemployment
  • Custody – known as conservatorship in Texas – changes to the other parent
  • The child has psychological, medical or educational special needs

How the process works

Changes to child support orders only occur after a court hearing or through an in-office negotiation known as the Child Support Review Process (CSRP) under the Child Support Division of the attorney general’s office. Courts do not recognize informal agreements between parents.

If both parents are on the same page, the process is usually significantly shorter. However, if the case is ineligible for CSRP or parents cannot agree, the request will need to be considered in court and will take more time.

While either parent can file for a modification, it’s advisable to consult an experienced family law attorney who understands the complicated process. Your lawyer will work to ensure that the support payment reflects your current circumstances while protecting your child’s well-being.