Divorced parents can expect child support payments to be a part of the settlement. But whether you are the parent who is paying or the one who is collecting, you also may be thinking about when the payments can end. Today’s blog will provide many answers to the question, “When Can I Stop Paying Child Support in Texas?”
What Does It Mean to Have Custody In Texas?
Child custody laws in Texas can be confusing. So before we discuss the laws, we need to explain a couple of terms. In Texas, there are two kinds of custody: legal and physical.
A parent who has physical custody has primary possession of the children. In other words, the person who the kids live with the majority of the time. Texas calls this person the custodial parent.
A parent who has legal custody has the right to make important decisions for the children. For example, the parent can be involved in deciding on the child’s education, health care, place of residence, and more. Texas calls this person the noncustodial parent.
Two other things to knows: In Texas, the proper term for custody is conservatorship. And if you and your ex both have decision-making authority, it is a joint managing conservatorship. Read our recent blog about different types of child custody in Texas.
Now that we understand the different types of custody, let’s look at some of the different scenarios when child support can end.
When Can I Stop Paying Child Support in Texas?
Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code Chapter 154 identifies the obligation to pay child support and the circumstances for terminating child support payments. The main three reasons why a parent can stop making payments are:
- The child is adopted
- The child reaches 18 years of age OR graduates from high school—whichever occurs second
- The child dies.
Parents may be able to halt payments if the child marries or is becomes legally emancipated.
Note that if the court rules that a child is disabled, the parent may have to make payments.
Can I Stop Paying Child Support If I Lose My Job?
The answer is a definite “maybe.” The Texas Attorney General’s Office states: “Losing your job or earning less income doesn’t mean your child support obligation automatically changes or goes away. But you can request that your case be reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). If your circumstances have changed, you may be eligible for a payment modification.”
This passage means you may indeed be allowed to pay less. But you will need to formally petition the court first. We’ll explain this more in the next section.
Can I Stop Making Payments if My Child Has Passed Away?
Yes—but with very important detail. The key thing for a parent to know about ending child support is that you don’t make the decision—the court does. That means that you must continue making child support payments until the court legally releases you from the obligation.
For example, in the event that your child should unexpectedly die, of course, he or she does not need your continued support. But as difficult as it may be, you must continue making the payments until a judge has modified the child support order.
This puts you in the awkward position of having to set aside your grief long enough to contact an attorney or the court as quickly as possible to begin the process of modifying the child support order.
If you just stop making payments, you are violating the court order—and the judge could hold you in contempt. Of course, you can go before the court and explain the circumstances, but that is just more time—and probably, more attorney’s fees. Read our recent blog on contempt of court consequences.
Can I Still Get Child Support if the Noncustodial Parent Dies?
The death of a parent is certainly a tragedy. For a parent who has custody of the children, the loss of the ex can be a double tragedy. First, the children have lost one of their beloved parents. Second, the loss of the child support payments may put the surviving parent in financial hardship.
If you are worried about properly providing for your children after the death of your ex, here are four things to have your attorney ask about:
Did your ex have a life insurance policy? If so, where you or your child named as a beneficiary? Note that if you have a copy of the insurance policy, you can contact the insurance company directly. You will need to have a copy of the death certificate.
What assets did your ex have? This can include bank accounts, cars, houses, and retirement accounts. If your ex did not have life insurance, the court may draw child support funds from these assets. Of course, to do this, you must have some knowledge of your ex’s assets. This is another reason why we recommend that both partners are informed about their couple’s finances. Read our recent blog about hidden assets.
Did your ex have a will? If the deceased parent had a will, this may provide information about your ex’s assets and how they are to be distributed. Surviving parents should be aware that if the deceased did not have a will, the assets probably will be distributed by a probate court. In this situation, an experienced probate court lawyer can be very helpful. Read about our probate law services.
Important Tips About Child Support for Surviving Parents
In addition to these resources, the surviving parent should also not forget about Social Security. Generally, children are eligible to receive these benefits up to age 19. Disabled children may be eligible to receive benefits indefinitely.
One last important thing to know: If the deceased parent had remarried, that relationship may complicate the process of distributing assets. This is another situation where we highly recommend you talk with an experienced probate law attorney.
If you as the surviving parent are deemed a fit parent by the state, you will almost certainly get custody of the children, thus ending the child support payments. The surviving parent also may be eligible to collect child support from the deceased parent’s estate.
If the Custodial Parent Dies, Can I Get Custody and Child Support?
In some situations, another adult may assume custody. The new custodian can be a grandparent, another relative, or a family friend. In this case, the new custodian may have the right to make you pay child support and collect from the estate as well.
Can I Stop Paying Child Support if My Ex Remarries?
The Texas Family Code states that judges must make decisions based upon the best interest of the child. Parents should keep this in mind at all times, and especially in regard to matters of child support payments.
Generally speaking, a judge will only look at the income levels of the biological parents. For example, just because your ex-wife has a new husband does not mean you can stop making payments. Thus, remarriage does not impact child support payments—usually.
Courts have one important qualifier to this policy. Parents always have the right to seek a court order modification. In other words, if your new husband is wealthy and providing for many of the expenses of the family, your ex can petition the court to reduce his child support payments. As we have said, the court will base this decision on the best interests of the children.
Conversely, if your ex-husband remarries, that does not mean you can expect additional payments from him. Courts want to look after the child’s best interest, but they also try to be reasonable.
If My Ex and I Get Back Together, Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support?
This is another example of how important it is to follow the law and stay in contact with the courts. Until the court says otherwise, you must still pay child support. In order to legally stop making payments, you need to secure a court order modification.
Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support If I Become Disabled?
Yes—but again, be aware of the fine print. Until you have the modified order signed by the court, you are legally obligated to make the payments. But what if you are severely and suddenly disabled? In a situation like this, you would want your attorney to contact the court as quickly as possible.
How Are Child Support Payments Calculated in Texas?
In 2020, the State Legislature approved new guidelines for calculating child support payments. They are as follows:
One child: 20% of noncustodial parent’s Net Monthly Income (NMI)
Two children: 25%of NMIThree children: 30% of NMI
Four children: 35% of NMI
Five children: 40% of NMI
Six children: No less than 40% of NMI
You should also be aware that the court has the authority to increase the amount of child support in certain circumstances. For example, the parent may experience a dramatic increase in income, or the child may experience a dramatic increase in need. Learn more about how child support payments are calculated.
The Most Important Thing to Know About When You Can Stop Making Child Support Payments
We’ve looked at a variety of possible scenarios in this article. But of course, we can’t address every possible situation, and every case is different. Before you considering reducing your child support payments or stopping them completely, we suggest you talk with an experienced family law attorney. The time and money you invest now may be well worth it in the long run.
Attorneys Near You Who Are Experts in Family Law and Probate Law
Divorce can be difficult and stressful. But the time after the divorce also can be stressful. If you are wondering, “When can I stop paying child support in Texas?” the attorneys of the Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, are ready to help you. They are experienced and compassionate and can advise you on the best course for all your family law issues.
Maynard Law Firm has offices near you, located in both Southlake and on Jacksboro Highway. They also offer a no-cost initial consultation. Don’t let the stress and complexity of divorce and child support overwhelm you – contact us today at 817-335-9600.