Child Support Enforcement during COVID-19

At Holmes, Diggs & Sadler, we understand the essential nature of receiving child support, especially during the worldwide spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (otherwise known as COVID-19). We know and understand that many of you have concerns during this difficult time and we are here to help guide you through it.

I have not been receiving child support from the other parent. What are my options?

If you are not receiving court ordered child support, there are several ways to motivate the other parent to comply with the order through a Suit to Enforce Child Support. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 157.001. In an enforcement proceeding, the Court may impose various penalties against the non-complying parent through incarceration, community supervision, payment of a fine, confirmation of child support arrearages, child support lien, levy on financial institutions, and/or license suspensions pursuant to Texas Family Code section 157.003.

An obligee (the party receiving child support) seeking to enforce a child support order should keep in mind, there is a possibility an obligor (the party ordered to pay child support) may seek to modify the amount of child support they are ordered to pay. See “How can I reduce my child support?” for more information.

How do I file Suit to Enforce Child Support?

You may file an Enforcement action, to collect the monies owed from child support, against the other parent through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) or through a private attorney.

While filing through the OAG is free, it usually takes longer for your case to be heard than if you were to file an enforcement suit through a private attorney. Furthermore, if you choose to file an enforcement suit through the OAG, it is extremely important to note that the OAG represents the state of Texas. Therefore, your wants and needs may get overlooked depending on the OAG’s goal in your case. On the contrary, a private attorney is able to customize the Suit to Enforce Child Support in order to meet your needs and goals and to give you immediate help collecting the child support owed to you

If you are having a difficult time receiving child support, the lawyers at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler are here to get you and your child the help needed.

My ex is trying to reduce the amount of child support he or she pays during COVID-19. What can I do?

With so many Texans out of work or experiencing a decrease in hours and pay in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19), many individuals my seek modification of their child support order. The Texas Family Code provides, if “the circumstances of [a] child or a person affected by the order [to pay child support] have materially and substantially changed” since the order was entered, then the court may modify a child support order. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 156.401(a)(1). The amount of child support may also be modified if it has been more than three years since the child support order was entered or if the “monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either twenty percent (20%) or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.” Id. § 156.401(a)(2)

Job loss and a significant decrease in pay are considered a “material and substantial” change in circumstances that would allow a court to modify a child support order. Your ex may petition the court to modify his/her monthly child support obligation. Modifications or adjustments of child support do not occur automatically—one party must file a petition with the court in order to effect the change.

If your ex does file a modification, it is important to seek help from the OAG or from a private attorney to ensure your spouse is calculating his/her new income correctly. Child support is calculated based on a percentage of an obligor’s (the person paying child support) “net resources,” as defined by the Texas Family Code. Included in this calculation is all wages, salary, tips, bonuses, and self-employment income. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 154.062(b). Importantly, also included in calculating child support is any severance pay and any unemployment benefits received. Id. § 154.062(b)(5). A certain amount of state and federal income taxes, as well as expenses for the cost of health insurance and dental insurance, is deducted from the calculated income to determine the obligor’s “net resources.”

If your ex files, it is important to request the proper documentation from him/her to calculate the amount of support your children are entitled. The lawyers at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler are standing by ready to guide you through the process. Our office can be reached at (713) 802-1777. You may schedule a consultation, immediately, to meet with an attorney by telephone, Skype, FaceTime, or other remote means during this time.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Child Support in Texas

The worldwide spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (otherwise known as COVID-19) has disrupted the normal day-to-day life for just about everyone. With the number of cases rapidly rising in the U.S., Texans are being forced to adjust to a “new normal.” Directives from President Trump, orders from Governor Abbott, and orders from countless local jurisdictions in Texas have forced many businesses and employers to temporarily shut down, decrease employees’ hours, and even lay off workers. The number of people filing for unemployment in Texas, as of March 23, 2020, jumped to a staggering 155,657 individuals—representing an 860% increase from the previous week. To get an idea about just how high that number is, last year an average of about 13,600 Texans filed for unemployment benefits each week. Unfortunately, it appears that those numbers are going to continue to increase.

I lost my job because of Coronavirus (COVID-19), can I decrease my child support?

With tens of thousands of Texans out of work or experiencing a decrease in hours and pay, many are left wondering how they are going to be able to continue paying their court-ordered child support. The Texas Family Code provides, if “the circumstances of [a] child or a person affected by the order [to pay child support] have materially and substantially changed” since the order was entered, then the court may modify a child support order. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 156.401(a)(1). The amount of child support may also be modified if it has been more than three years since the child support order was entered or if the “monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either twenty percent (20%) or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.” Id. § 156.401(a)(2).

Both job loss and a significant decrease in pay are considered a “material and substantial” change in circumstances that would allow a court to modify a child support order. If you have experienced either of these situations as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19), you may petition the court to modify your monthly child support obligation. Modifications or adjustments of child support do not occur automatically—one party must file a petition with the court in order to effect the change.

A modification of a current order resulting from the loss of employment or furlough can be obtained through the Attorney General’s office, or through the use of a private attorney. See “How can I reduce my child support?” for more information.

How is child support calculated?

Child support is calculated based on a percentage of an obligor’s (the person paying child support) “net resources,” as defined by the Texas Family Code. Included in this calculation is all wages, salary, tips, bonuses, and self-employment income. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 154.062(b). Importantly, also included in calculating child support is any severance pay and any unemployment benefits received. Id. § 154.062(b)(5). A certain amount of state and federal income taxes, as well as expenses for the cost of health insurance and dental insurance, is deducted from the calculated income to determine the obligor’s “net resources.”

Then, depending on how many children the obligor has, the child support guidelines mandate a percentage that is applied to the obligor’s net resources, resulting in that person’s monthly child support obligation. Id. § 154.125. There are caps on the maximum amount of child support payable under the guidelines; however, those maximums can be exceeded in certain uncommon situations, depending on the proven needs of the child.

When you are attempting to modify your child support payments, be prepared to supply your attorney, or the Attorney General, with proof of any unemployment benefits you receive, severance you received, and information relating to the salary you made prior to unemployment.

How can I reduce my child support to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Following job loss or a significant reduction in hours and pay, it is important to act quickly in order to reduce your monthly child support obligation. One way to get this process started is to submit a Request for Review to the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General. A much quicker way to accomplish this is to meet with a private attorney to discuss filing a Petition to Modify. It is important to bring your most recent earnings information, as well as a copy of your current child support order, to your meeting with an attorney. Most recent earnings information includes a copy of your latest W-2 or 1099, your most recent tax return, and your last several paychecks. If you receive a notice from your employer regarding your lay off or reduction in hours and/or wages, you should bring a copy of that document to your meeting with an attorney as well.

It is important to note that an informal agreement between parents to modify child support will not effectively change the monthly child support obligation. In order to properly modify your child support obligation, you must obtain an order from the court.

How soon will a child support modification go into effect?

There is no set timeline for how soon a child support modification will go into effect, but the sooner that you act, the quicker that the change can happen. A modification of child support can be made retroactive, but not all the way back to the day of the job loss or reduction in pay. The modification can be retroactive back to the time that the other party is served with the lawsuit. The Texas Family Code states, “A support order may be modified with regard to the amount of support ordered only as to obligations accruing after the earlier of: (1) the date of service of citation; or (2) an appearance in the suit to modify.” Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 156.401(b). Therefore, it is very important to meet with an attorney and take the necessary steps to file a Petition to Modify as soon as possible. This will allow the modification of child support to be retroactively applied to the earliest date possible. Even with the courts currently only hearing limited proceedings, you can ask that the change be made effective retroactively.

If you have experienced job loss or a reduction in pay due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), or if you are ready to have an attorney evaluate your current child support obligation, the lawyers at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler are standing by ready to guide you through the process. Our office can be reached at (713) 802-1777. You may schedule a consultation, immediately, to meet with an attorney by telephone, Skype, FaceTime, or other remote means during this time.


Attorneys from Holmes, Diggs & Sadler featureed in Houstonia Magazine

houstonia magazine
We are proud to announce that Cindy Diggs, Judie Sadler, and Rachel Sedita (formerly Rachel Smith) were included in Houstonia Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2017.


Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez have finalized their divorced

After their break-up announcement last October, Oscar award winner Halle Berry and her third husband Olivier Martinez have officially completed their divorce.

Reports say that Berry rushed the divorce for financial reasons. According to the court documents, Berry doesn’t want Martinez to have access to her pending contracts in 2017. The former couple had a pre-nuptial agreement and will get a joint legal and physical custody of their three-year-old son, Maceo.

Berry and Martinez first met in 2010 on the set of Dark Tide. According to rumors, the couple’s break-up was partly because of Martinez’ violent temper following an incident with a LAX employee.

If you or someone you know is struggling through a divorce, our family lawyers can help you. We at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler are experienced in family and divorce law and can help you through the process. Get in touch with us at (713) 802-1777.


Billionaire Bill Ackman and his wife getting a divorce

Hedge fund boss and billionaire Bill Ackman and his wife Karen Ann Herskovitz are reportedly getting a divorce, according to an email allegedly sent by Herskovitz to her friends on Thursday, December 22.

The couple, who got married in 1994, have three daughters together and are planning on keeping the divorce amicable. Although the petition for the dissolution of their marriage is yet to be filed, it has been reported that the couple already hired lawyers to draft their settlement.

According to Page Six, the settlement for the divorce could reach up to hundreds of millions of dollars. Both Ackman and Herskovitz are negotiating for various million-dollar properties such as the $90 million trophy penthouse at the glittering new One57, the $35 million apartment at the Beresford off Central Park, the $22 million waterfront estate in Bridgehampton that was bought in 2011, and the $23.5 million mansion.

Going through a divorce can be really stressful, especially when there are large assets involved. If you or someone you know is considering filing for a divorce, our Monmouth county divorce attorneys at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler can assist you throughout the whole process. Contact us at (713) 802-1777 to learn more about your options.


Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom divorce

TV reality star Khloe Kardashian and former NBA player Lamar Odom’s divorce was officially finalized on December 12 by a Los Angeles judge and will be effective on December 17.

Kardashian first sought to end her marriage with Odom in December 2013. She later withdrew the divorce and reconciled with Odom because he reportedly suffered from a certain medical condition. Several months since their reconciliation, Kardashian refiled a divorce petition citing irreconcilable differences. The couple has no children despite being together for over four years. The court decision says neither Kardashian nor Odom will receive spousal support. The couple’s company, Khlomar, will also be dissolved once the judgment takes effect this week.

We at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler understand how much stress a person can endure while going through a divorce. If you are in the process of dissolving your marriage, we can help you. Our lawyers practice divorce law and can provide you with reliable representation. Get in touch with us at (713) 802-1777 to learn more about your legal options.


Financial Disclosures needed in Divorce Process

In the course of a divorce proceeding, almost every state requires the disclosure of financial statements that could help in the settlement process.

A uniform financial disclosure is generally required of both parties, including an income statement, a list of all expenses, and a list of all assets and liabilities.

Supporting documents are also required, including copies of mortgages titles, personal and business tax returns, copies of credit/debit cards, and bank statements.

After the initial financial disclosure, some states require a final divorce hearing before the divorce is granted. Parties may be asked to submit updated statements of assets and liabilities, updated tax returns, and recent income statements.

Filing for divorce can be a complicated process, but the attorneys at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler can assist with the process. Contact us today and set up a consultation at (713) 802-1777.


Court order finally evicts man from his grand home

After being evicted from his lavish home in Texas, a Pakistani native man’s fight has been forced to end.

Sharafat Khan, 69, had resorted to staying on the lawn of his own house in Taylor Lake Shores since his wife expelled him from the house about five months ago. Lakeview Police had been called over a number of couple’s arguments inside the house. Khan’s wife, Shahnaz Khan, 61, even changed the locks and asked the police to evict him from the property, but as they both owned the home, the order could not be carried out.

The couple’s divorce papers, which were finally approved and gave Shahnaz full ownership of the home, gave authority to the police who quickly did order Khan to leave. Khan, who had made it clear that he could’ve, at any time, chosen to go somewhere else, willingly took a taxi to his new home.

According to Harris County Criminal Court records, however, Khan has a history of domestic violence and his wife actually had a civil court protection order as well as requested more than one restraining order.

The division of property, especially high-stakes, shared property like homes, can be a tricky ocean to try to navigate alone. You don’t have to sail the seas of divorce by yourself, however. Contact one of our attorneys with Holmes, Diggs & Sadler by calling (713) 802-1777 to speak with one of our sympathetic divorce attorneys.


Common Reasons for Divorce

Often, when asked, the adult population of the U.S. will answer the question “what is the leading cause of divorce” with something similar to infidelity. However, research has proven that communication issues are among the top reasons for marriage failure. The items in the following list are considered some of the other leading causes of divorce:

  • When a couple marries for the wrong reasons or because they feel pressured by their peers or the money they’ve invested in the ceremony or relationship.
  • When a couple either loses their individual identity, becoming one monolithic entity that feels uncomfortable in any situation without one another, or they are so different that they lose sight of why they were together at all.
  • When a couple marries and has different expectations of what roles they should fulfill or how to handle finances, there can be friction. Adding children to this mix means that they become very rooted in their carefully established roles, falling further and further apart as their children grow up.
  • Often a lack of intimacy, both in a sexual and non-sexual way, can lead to hurt feelings or worse, becoming nearly strangers.
  • A final nail in so many marriage’s coffins is the inability for the couple to communicate. If each person finds that their expectations for the marriage are not met, it can cause tense and difficult conversations. Without the ability to talk through these issues, a now-fragile marriage is more liable to fall apart.

Marriage ideally works out when the two partners love and care for one another very deeply, but in the unpredictability of marriage, those two qualities are often not enough. The willingness of the partners to continuously work out the marriage will make or break the relationship.

If you are in the process of dissolving your marriage, contact an attorney with Holmes, Diggs & Sadler. Whether contested or uncontested, marriages can be messy and difficult to navigate, making an attorney a valuable asset during this hard time. Call us at (713) 802-1777 today.


More space needed for domestic violence victims

A young mother fled from her abusive boyfriend after he attempted to kidnap their child, taking nothing with her but her daughter and heading to Houston. She feared her life but was defiant: “He beat me for the last time.”

She had been staying with the friend of a relative for nearly two weeks while trying to find a safer place. Unfortunately, every place she contacted responded with the same unfortunate message: they were full.

Fortunately, when Gail Hays, a former DA’s investigator, tried an out-of-Houston shelter on September 8, around noon, the worker had a room available for the mother and her child on the same day.

“I wish there was enough room for everyone who needs it,” the unidentified mother said, “I’d like to be a counselor so I could help women like me.”

We understand at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler that the emotional impact of domestic abuse can often be more traumatic than the physical impact and we believe you deserve peace of mind again. Call us at (713) 802-1777 where we are standing by to support you through this trying and often confusing time.

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