You’ve been a good parent. You’ve always made your child support payments on time, and without complaining. But circumstances can change—for you, and your children. And now you’re not sure if the payments are fair or needed. Can a parent get out of paying child support in Texas? The answer is yes. In fact, it’s not that hard. But you do have to follow the proper procedures. So today we’ll explain the circumstances and process for canceling child support payments.
Defining Child Support in Texas
In Texas, courts do not use the term “custody.” Instead, they refer to “conservatorship.” In your divorce, the court may have ordered the children to live most or all of the time with one of the two parties. The court calls this person the custodial parent, or primary conservator. The other person is called the non-custodial parent, or possessory conservator.
The court reasonably assumes that the parent who has the children most of the time is going to have more of the expenses. To compensate for this, the court requires the non-custodial parent to pay child support. The court probably established the amount you pay using the child support calculator provided by the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Some parents may resent having to make child support payments. However, the court intends this arrangement to be fair both parents. It also encourages the non-custodial parent to stay engaged and involved with the lives of the children. If you have questions about the calculation of your payments, we can provide you with a no-cost, 30-minute consultation.
You Can Stop Payments When Your Child Turns 18
In Texas, when your child turns 18, you have the legal right to cancel the payments. The Texas Family Code refers to this as the “age of majority.” The State’s position is that a person of this age is capable of making his or her own legal and financial decisions.
Aging out is the most common reason for payments to stop, and of course, the easiest. However, a parent also can cancel payments once the child graduates from high school. Note that the court accepts whichever comes later.
When should you file the petition? It’s a good idea to submit the paperwork 45 to 60 days in advance. However, the situation changes if you owe back child support (“arrearages”). In this case, you must keep making payments even after the child turns 18 until the debt is paid in full, plus interest.
Other Reasons a Parent Can Get Out of Paying Child Support in Texas
Of course, if you are considering canceling payments, it probably is not because your child has reached 18. So here are some other situations when a noncustodial parent can legally get out of paying child support in Texas.
Medical Emergency: A parent may get out of paying child support in Texas if he or she has been seriously injured, is too ill to work, or is approaching death.
Paternity: If genetic testing proves that you are not a child’s biological father, you can petition the court to terminate your parent-child relationship. Be aware that once you learn you are not the child’s biological father, you have one year to file a petition with the court.
Compliance: Payments may be canceled if the court finds that the child has failed to comply with school enrollment and attendance requirements as described in the Texas Family Code Section 154.002(a).
Emancipation: If a child may become financially independent and self-supporting before the age of majority, the court may rule that the child has become emancipated. This allows the parent to legally get out of paying child support in Texas. Common ways a child becomes emancipated include getting married, leaving home, or joining the military before graduation.
Disability: If a child has a disability, the court probably required child support payments. Should the child be able to recover from this disability, the noncustodial parent may be able to terminate payments.
Death: If a child passes away, the parent is no longer obligated to provide payments to the ex for that specific child.
It also is possible to get out of paying child support in Texas if both parents agree to it. As you might guess this is not very common.
To Cancel Payments, You Will Need to File a Petition
To get out of paying child support, you will need to petition the court. In Tarrant County, you will need to complete the Application for Case Closure and Termination of Income Withholding. (You should always file the form in the same court where the child support payments were established.) Your ex has 15 days to object to the petition.
Once a judge signs the petition, it is forwarded to the Texas Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s office will issue instructions to stop payment. They also can send a letter regarding the cancelation to your employer.
Do you need a lawyer to get out of paying child support in Texas? In many cases, the answer is no. But as we have seen, some of the cases can be rather complicated. If you have concerns that the court might reject your petition, we suggest you hire a family law attorney to assist you.
Be Sure to Continue Paying Child Support While the Court Considers Your Petition
Even after you have petitioned the court, you still have a legal obligation. So it is essential to continue making the payments, even if you become unemployed.
If you do not make payments, the court can hold you in contempt, or even have you arrested. Failure to make payments also might jeopardize your case. Most of all, supporting your child is the right thing to do.
Be aware that every state is required to uphold the child support orders of other states. In addition, a child support order can even be enforced in many other countries.
Texas Child Support Payments May Continue After Age 18
If your child has a disability, you are likely to have to continue making payments long after he or she has reached age 18. On the other hand, you also may decide to continue providing money after the child reaches 18. These payments are voluntary and not required.
Also, if you are just wanting to lower your payments, you can petition the court for a child support modification. Of course, your ex also can petition the court for more money. In a recent blog, we discussed what you need to know about finding a child support lawyer for fathers.
To Learn More About How a Parent Can Get Out of Paying Child Support, Contact Maynard Law Firm, PLLC.
Don’t risk the penalties for failure to pay child support. Maynard Law Firm can advise you on the best course for all your family legal issues. With two offices in Tarrant County, our law firm has years of experience handling court order modification cases, including issues regarding custody and child support.
We offer a no-cost initial consultation and, if you prefer, we are willing to meet with you on video. Don’t let the stress of overwhelm you – contact us today at 817-335-9600.