What Questions Are Asked in a Child Support Hearing?
When two people enter into a marriage, they become a partnership, and when they have a child, they both assume responsibilities in relation to that child. This includes making sure that the child’s physical, emotional and mental needs are met. Even when parents divorce, they must still work together to ensure that the child’s needs are still met. One way that this is maintained is through child support. Child support gives financial support to the parent who has primary care of the child and helps cover things such as their education and the cost of living.
Unfortunately, child support is often a sore subject for divorcing spouses, and this can lead to arguments and raised emotions. This makes it a smart idea to seek representation from a good divorce lawyer. Here at Skillern Firm, our team of skilled family law attorneys is trained in all aspects of divorce and family law. We utilize a range of methods, including negotiation and mediation, to help spouses come together on important matters like child support and custody.
We cover the entirety of Texas, so call us today at (936) 213-8479.
Child Support Hearings
When parents simply cannot agree in terms of child support, a hearing may be necessary to work out the arrangements. During this meeting, the judge will consider what they believe to be fair and reasonable whilst still ensuring their decisions are made in the child’s best interests. The judge will utilize any information they have regarding the parent’s income, involvement in the child’s life, and whether the parents have any special needs that need to be taken into account.
Importance of a Child Support Order
Child support payments are designed to assist the primary parent in the task of raising the child. It should help them provide things like food and shelter and assist with medical bills and education. It does not however cover luxurious items or any custodial parent costs that do not relate to the child. A child support arrangement needs to be approved by a judge, and once approved, it becomes an official court order that binds those named within.
What Questions Are Asked in a Child Support Hearing?
During a child support hearing, both parents will be asked certain questions. The answers to these questions will be used to formulate the agreement. The judge and the court will prioritize the needs of the children involved above all else. There are several different areas that the judge will want to know about, each with their own questions:
The Needs Of the Child
The first questions are compulsory, and you must, by law, give answers that are as accurate as possible.
- What ages are the children involved?
- How much does it cost to feed, clothe, and educate the child currently?
- How much do you spend on childcare, such as nurseries and babysitters?
- How much do you spend on the child’s medical needs, such as doctor’s visits or medication?
- Does the child have any special needs or disabilities?
Parents’ Income and Assets
The next area the judge will want to know about is in regards to each parent’s income, salaries, and assets. If you lie about any of these things and it is later found that you provided false information, you will lose credibility, and your lies may be used against you later on.
These questions will include:
- How much do you earn per week/month?
- How much money do you have in savings?
- How much money do you have in your bank account?
- What is the value of your assets, including real estate and investments?
Your child support payments will be based on your potential earnings. This means that your actual income and your ability to earn will be considered.
Parents’ Living Costs and Expenses
The judge will ask questions about your regular outgoings and expenses. You may be asked to prove your answers with evidence. Things like monthly medical bills and loan payments, as well as mortgage payments and other finance, will need to be disclosed.
Questions may include:
- How much do you spend on travel per month?
- How much are your regular medical bills?
- How much does your mortgage cost?
- Will you be paying spousal support?
- Is there a sole or joint custody arrangement?
Using Child Support for Personal Matters
Child support guidelines in Texas are vague about what child support can pay for. However, it should only be for the child’s benefit. That could include clothes, food, toys, or even rent or mortgage payments. However, if you suspect that your ex-spouse benefits from child support payments, you should report it to the court. Using child support for personal matters that do not benefit the child in any way could carry severe penalties, such as loss of custodial rights. However, you mustn’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, you should seek help from a skilled family law attorney from Skillern Firm.
Medical and Dental Support For Children in Texas
Parents are also required to provide medical support. If the divorce case begins after September 1st, 2018, they will also be required to provide dental support. The parent responsible for child support could also be responsible for medical and dental coverage if they can obtain it at a reasonable cost. The cost is considered reasonable if it is 9% or under of their annual income for medical cover and 1.5% or under for dental.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support in Texas
A child support order is legally binding, therefore it is essential that you secure a fair and reasonable arrangement. If the paying parent misses a child support payment, then the amount they owe will keep accumulating and will be subject to interest. Even if they manage to have the order changed, it will not reduce what they owe.
Potential penalties for repeatedly missing child support payments include:
- $0-500 fine for every missed payment.
- Automatic deduction from their paycheck or other income sources.
- A jail sentence of up to six months.
- Professional licenses could be suspended, such as their driving license.
- They could be ordered to pay the other parent’s attorney fees if they had to take legal action against them.
- Liens against their assets
Child Support FAQ
Q: Can a child support order be modified?
A: Yes, parents can file for a child support modification. This can be requested by one parent or both. In accordance with the Texas Family Code, grounds for modification are:
- A substantial or material change in circumstances, such as a change of job or job loss, changes to the child’s living arrangements, changing needs of the child or increased caring expenses for other dependents.
- A minimum of three years has passed since the existing order, and the value of child support payments that would be awarded under current guidelines differs by either 20% or $100.
Q: How is child support collected?
A: Child support can be collected in various ways, such as direct deposits, bank checks, or electronic payments. Sometimes the payee’s employer can deduct it from their salary to a child welfare agency before it is transferred to the other parent.
Q: Does child support end when the child turns 18?
A: Child support doesn’t always end just because a child turns 18. The paying parent will need to pay child support while they are still wholly dependent on them. However, depending on the circumstances, a judge could determine that your child is now outside of your ‘sphere of influence’, and therefore the child support payments can be stopped.
Q: What if the paying parent no longer lives in Texas?
A: Regardless of whether the paying parent lives in Texas, they will still have a legal requirement to pay child support. If they fail to do so, then the Child Support Division can utilize federal law to seek help from other state enforcement agencies to collect child support from them.
Q: Do missed child support payments ever disappear?
A: When the paying parent misses a child support payment, it is known as ‘past-due support.’ The court keeps track of missed payments which accumulate over time and gain interest. There is no statute of limitations on them, meaning they do not disappear or get reduced. They must be paid eventually, or there will be legal consequences.
Q: Can the paying parent lose visitation rights if they stop paying child support?
A: Child support and visitation are considered separate. That means that regardless of payments, visitation cannot be stopped. The court will find other ways to hold the paying parent accountable for missed payments. This is because it is not considered to be in the child’s best interests for visitation to be stopped. If the custodial parent refuses visitation because of missed payments, then they themselves could face legal consequences.
Q: What happens if the paying parent loses their job or secures a new job?
A: The child support amount won’t change automatically and the judge is not responsible for monitoring significant changes. If the paying parent loses their job, then they will need to apply for a modification, and until a modification is approved, they will need to meet their obligation. If the paying parent secures a new job with a higher salary, then either parent can file for a modification to increase the amount they owe.
Contact Skillern Firm
Child support matters are complex and can involve a lot of court involvement and interaction between spouses. An experienced child support attorney can help you prepare to answer child support hearing questions, gather all necessary evidence and information, and represent you in court. At Skillern Firm, we prioritize mediation and negotiation, which means we can help you and your ex-spouse come to amicable agreements that fit your lifestyle and needs. We are also prepared to fight for your best interest in court if this is not possible.
We have more than 50 years of combined experience exclusively in family law. Our personalized approach to the attorney-client relationship and dedication to our clients allows us to handle even the most complex cases. A child support order should not be taken lightly. It is legally binding and could seriously affect the quality of your life and the lives of your children. The best thing you can do is to seek advice from a skilled divorce attorney who truly cares about you and has the skills and resources necessary to help. That is exactly what you will find at Skillern Firm.
Call our law firm today at (936) 213-8479.