In most cases, a parent’s obligation to pay child support lasts until the child reaches the age of majority (18) or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, the child support obligation may also end before any of these two events happen.
If you were ordered to pay child support but do not understand your rights and obligations as the payor, speak with a skilled divorce attorney. A Fort Hood divorce attorney will help you understand how long you will have to pay child support after ending your marriage in Texas.
When Does Child Support End in Texas?
Under Texas Family Code § 154.001, all parents have an obligation to support their children financially. In the eyes of the law, married parents are providing financial support to their children during the marriage. However, when parents get divorced, one of the parents is likely to be ordered to pay child support.
In Texas, child support ends when one of the following occurs:
The child reaches the age of majority (18 years old);
The child graduates from high school;
The child is emancipated; or
The child dies.
A parent may be ordered to pay child support for an indefinite period if the child is disabled. In other words, if your child has a disability, you may be required to pay child support even after your child reaches becomes an adult or graduates from high school.
How Long Do You Have to Pay Child Support?
Let’s discuss each of the situations in which a parent is no longer required to pay child support in Texas:
The child reaches the age of majority or graduates from high school. A child support obligation may be terminated when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. In other words, even if your child graduates from high school before reaching the age of 18, you are still required to pay child support until your child turns 18.
The child is emancipated. A child support obligation may end if the child is emancipated (a) through marriage or (b) removal of the disability of a minority through a court order. A child may also become emancipated through other operations of law. Even if a child is younger than 18, they are no longer considered to be a child after becoming emancipated. Children who become emancipated are no longer required to remain under the supervision of their parents.
The child dies. While no parent wants to think about losing their child, a parent’s obligation to pay child support will cease upon the child’s death.
If any of the above-mentioned occurred, you might wonder whether or not you have to pay child support. It is vital to discuss your particular situation with a knowledgeable attorney to determine whether you can stop paying child support because your obligation to pay support has been terminated.
When Are Parents Required to Pay Child Support for an Indefinite Period?
As mentioned earlier, parents may be ordered to pay child support for an indefinite period when their child has a disability. Under Texas law, a child is considered disabled when:
The child requires substantial care;
The child requires personal supervision;
The child is not capable of self-support; and
The child’s disability existed before their 18th birthday.
If you were ordered to pay child support for an indefinite period, the payments would go either directly to the adult child or their conservator/guardian.
Can You Modify Child Support in Texas?
If you cannot afford to pay child support until your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, you may wonder, “Can I modify child support?” The short answer is “yes, you can.” However, you need to prove that your circumstances warrant a modification of child support to reduce the amount you were ordered to pay.
In Texas, the parent seeking a modification must prove that their circumstances have changed substantially in order for the court to grant their modification request. Common reasons to modify child support in Texas include the loss of a job or reduction in income.
If any of these two things occur to you, you should go to court to modify child support. Your child support payments are not automatically lowered or terminated without a court order. It is advisable to seek the legal counsel of an experienced divorce lawyer to determine how you can modify child support in your specific case.
How to Modify Your Child Support Order in Texas?
Generally, Texans have two grounds to modify child support:
More than three years have passed since the original child support order was put in place. You can request a modification if it has been three or more years since the child support order was issued by a Texas court as long as the difference between the original amount and the requested amount is at least 20% or $100, whichever is less.
There has been a substantial and material change in circumstances. You do not necessarily need to wait three years to modify your child support order in Texas as long as you can prove that you have experienced a substantial and material change in circumstances.
You can request a modification on the basis of a substantial and material change in circumstances as long as any of the following has occurred:
A substantial decrease in the payor parent’s income
The loss of employment
A dramatic change in the child’s living conditions
A change in health insurance coverage for the child
The parent receiving child support has entered a new marriage
The payor is responsible for financially supporting more children
When any of the above-mentioned has occurred, you need to consult with a skilled lawyer to determine whether or not you can request a modification of child support in your particular case.