Child Support Cost in Texas
In Texas, child support is governed by specific statutes and guidelines laid out by the Texas Family Code. The primary objective of these laws is to prioritize the best interests of the child and ensure that both parents contribute to their financial support.
When it comes to determining child support, Texas follows an income-based approach. The court takes into account various factors such as the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and any special medical or educational needs of the child.
Calculating child support can seem complex, but there are resources available to help parents navigate the process. The Texas Attorney General’s Office provides online calculators and guidelines that can assist in determining the appropriate child support amount based on specific circumstances.
In the upcoming sections of this blog post, we will delve deeper into the specific guidelines and calculations involved in determining child support in Texas. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of these important aspects, parents can navigate the child support process with confidence and ensure the best possible outcome for their children.
How much is child support in Texas?
In Texas courts, this usually depends upon three things:
- the number of children involved in the Divorce,
- whether there are any children “outside of the marriage,”
- how much you (as the “Non-custodial Parent,” or NCP) earn.
The general percentages applied to your “Net Resources” (but not your current spouse’s Net Resources) are as follows:
- One Child 20%
- Two Children 25%
- Three Children 30%
- Four Children 35%
- Five Children 40%
- Six + Children Not less than Amount for Five Children
The percentages are slightly less if you have other children that are “outside of the marriage,” in other words you pay a little less (but not much) if you have children from a prior relationship for whom you also have a “legal duty of support.” If you are paying child support regarding other children, or if you support other children who reside with you, then you would pay a slightly lower percentage of your Net Resources than under the preceding guidelines.
“Net Resources” does not mean “net income,” however. It is not calculated based upon what you actually receive in your paycheck, because you can change this yourself (i.e. – take out more for a 401k contribution, etc.). The Court will calculate this fictional “Net Resources” by subtracting out what a single person taking the standard deduction and one personal exemption would pay in taxes (Social Security and FICA). You can find these amounts in the Attorney General’s Child Support Tax Tables, which is located on their website. The Court will also subtract any amounts actually paid by you for health insurance for the benefit of the Child, but not the portion of your health insurance deduction that applies to your own coverage. The Court will also deduct any union dues that you must pay.
Also, you need to be aware that the Court will consider any other sources of income that you are entitled to receive, including commissions, overtime pay, bonuses, interest on savings, dividends, capital gains, royalty income, net rental income, annuities, pensions, severance pay, retirement benefits, disability or workers’ compensation benefits, social security benefits, and similar sources of revenue. Persons who are self-employed should be aware that the Court will not merely look to your “salary,” if any, but may consider any benefits allocated to you from your business or undertaking, after taking into consideration the ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce such income.
There is a “cap” on the amount of Net Resources to which the foregoing percentage guidelines can be applied. That amount, for cases filed after September 1, 2007 (but before the next cost of living adjustment in 2013) is $7,500 per month. This is the maximum amount of Net Resources that the Court will usually consider for purposes of calculating your child support obligation, even if your actual Net Resources are greater. For example, a person with Net Resources of more than $9,000 per month with one child would generally pay child support in the amount of $1,500 each month, calculated as follows: $7,500 times 20% = $1,500.
Sometimes, the Court will award more or less than the amount calculated under the statutory guidelines, but only in compelling circumstances (this is referred to as a “Variance”). As the name “Guideline” implies, this is the amount that will guide the Court – and the amount you usually will pay.
Deviations from the standard child support guidelines
While the standard child support guidelines provide a framework for calculating child support payments in Texas, there are situations where deviations from these guidelines may be necessary or appropriate. The court has the discretion to deviate from the standard guidelines based on specific circumstances that warrant a different approach to ensure the best interests of the child are met.
One common reason for deviation is when the child has special needs or requires extraordinary medical or educational expenses. In such cases, the court may adjust the child support calculations to account for these additional costs and ensure the child’s unique needs are adequately addressed.
Another situation where deviations may occur is when the noncustodial parent has an unusually high income that exceeds the maximum amount considered by the standard guidelines. In such cases, the court may deviate from the guidelines to ensure that the child’s financial needs are appropriately met, taking into account the higher income of the noncustodial parent.
Similarly, if the custodial parent has a significantly higher income than the noncustodial parent, the court may consider adjusting the child support calculations to reflect the income disparity and maintain a fair and balanced arrangement.
Deviations can also be made based on the possession and access schedule or the sharing of additional expenses, such as healthcare or extracurricular activities. These factors can influence the amount of child support required and may require adjustments to the standard guidelines.
Modifications to child support orders in Texas
Modifications to child support orders in Texas can be necessary due to various reasons. Life circumstances change, and what may have been appropriate at the time of the initial order may no longer be applicable. It is important to understand the guidelines and process for modifying child support orders to ensure fairness and the best interests of the child.
In Texas, child support orders can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances for either the parent obligated to pay child support or the parent receiving child support. These changes can include a substantial increase or decrease in income, a change in the child’s needs, or a change in the custodial arrangement.
To request a modification, the parent seeking the change must file a petition with the court that issued the original child support order. It is crucial to provide proof of the significant change in circumstances to support the modification request. This can include financial documents, medical records, or any other relevant evidence.
Once the petition is filed, the court will review the circumstances and determine if a modification is warranted. If the court finds that there has been a substantial change, it will consider the best interests of the child when recalculating the child support amount.
Modifications to child support orders in Texas are not retroactive. This means that any changes made will only apply from the date the petition was filed. Therefore, it is crucial to take prompt action if you believe a modification is necessary to ensure that the new child support amount reflects the current circumstances.
Texas Retroactive Child Support
In both Texas paternity cases and other Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship “SAP-CR” cases (including Divorces), a Texas court may order so-called “retroactive” child support, or what is essentially back child support for periods of time in the past where child support was not ordered, but where there was a duty of support.
In a Texas paternity case, absent evidence that the prospective obligor knew about the obligation and “sought to avoid the establishment [of an Order],” the Court will presumptively limit the award of retroactive child support four years of support. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.131. In setting the amount of retroactive child support, the court shall consider the net resources of the obligor during the relevant time period and whether:
- Whether the mother of the child had made any previous attempts to notify the obligor of his paternity or probable paternity;
- Whether the obligor (Dad), had knowledge of his paternity or probable paternity;
- Whether the award of retroactive support will impose an undue hardship upon the obligor or his family, and
- Whether the obligor provided any actual support or other necessities before the filing of the action.
In ordinary SAP-CR cases under Tex. Fam. Code § 154.009 (a), the Texas Courts can order a parent to pay retroactive child support if the parent:
- has not previously been ordered to pay support for the child; and
- was not a party to a suit in which support was ordered.
Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the court may order a parent subject to a previous child support order to pay retroactive child support if:
- the previous child support order terminated as a result of the marriage or remarriage of the child’s parents;
- the child’s parents separated after the marriage or remarriage; and
- a new child support order is sought after the date of the separation.
In these situations (as contrasted with paternity, above), the Court may order retroactive child support back to the date of the separation of the child’s parents.
It is also significant to note that unless the Texas Office of the Attorney General was “a party to an agreement” which settles past, present, or future support obligations by prepayment or otherwise, an agreement between the parties does not reduce or terminate retroactive support when the Attorney General so requests.
Enforcing child support orders and consequences for non-payment
Enforcing child support orders is crucial to ensure that children receive the financial support they deserve. In Texas, there are strict guidelines and consequences in place to hold non-paying parents accountable for their obligations.
When a non-custodial parent fails to make child support payments, the custodial parent has several options to enforce the order.
One common method is income withholding, where the child support amount is automatically deducted from the non-paying parent’s wages or other sources of income. This is a highly effective method as it eliminates the need for direct communication between parents and ensures consistent and timely payments.
Interception of tax refunds.
If a non-paying parent is entitled to a tax refund, the Texas Attorney General’s Office can intercept the refund and apply it toward the owed child support.
The state can suspend various licenses, such as driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and hunting and fishing licenses, for parents who are significantly delinquent in their child support payments. This can serve as a strong incentive for non-paying parents to fulfill their financial responsibilities.
In extreme cases, the court can hold a non-paying parent in contempt, which can result in fines, probation, or even imprisonment. However, incarceration is typically seen as a last resort and is more commonly used when all other enforcement methods have failed.
We hope you found our blog post on child support in Texas informative and helpful. Understanding the guidelines and calculations for child support can be complex, but we have broken it down into easy-to-understand steps to simplify the process for you. By familiarizing yourself with the guidelines and calculations mentioned in this article, you will be better equipped to navigate the child support system in Texas. Remember, it’s important to consult with a legal professional for personalized advice based on your specific situation. We wish you the best in your journey toward ensuring the well-being of your children.