In child support hearing, the judge who will be deciding matters concerning the amount that must be paid regularly for child support will need data in order to come up with a figure that is in the best interest of the child, and that is also fair to both parents. Essentially, the judge will have to know details regarding the child’s needs, the ability of the parents to provide financial support, and the needs of the parents themselves. All these must be balanced—though each state has different guidelines and laws regarding the nature of this balance—to ensure a fair and equitable arrangement regarding the child support amount.
The needs of the child
The judge will ask the parents a series of questions regarding the child (or children) that they have together. These questions include:
- How old is the child?
- How much is spent on the child’s food, clothing, and educational needs?
- How much for visits to the doctor, to the dentist, to the optician?
- How much for child care, for a nanny or babysitter?
- Are there other special needs that the child may have, and what are they?
The set of needs of the child is paramount, and each question should be supplied with accurate dollar figures for the judge. The parent must prepare for the child support hearing with exact and if possible verifiable figures as answers to these questions.
Assets and sources of income
Both parents will also be asked about each one’s assets and salaries.
- How much do you earn in a week?
- How much do you have on your bank account?
- What kind of assets do you own, and what are the values of these assets?
The money that will be set aside for the child’s support will come from these sources. Lying, or providing inaccurate or incomplete answers, may be tempting but is not encouraged. Not only will it damage a parent’s credibility in future hearings when the time comes that the child support order will have to be reviewed, but a judge may also find the act of lying as contempt of court which can carry somewhat severe penalties.
The non-custodial parent will come under extra scrutiny, as the payor in the child support hearing. The amount for child support is based on the parent’s potential earning as opposed to his actual income.
If the judge determines that the parent is intentionally working at a job that pays a lower income when a higher income job is readily available, then the amount of the child support would be based on that higher-paying job. Any hardship as a result of this amount will be considered voluntary on the part of the parent. There are exceptions to this; for example, a good child support lawyer may be able to argue that the higher-paying job may be detrimental to the health of the parent, and thus poses a long-term risk to the parent’s ability to pay support.
The parents will be asked about each one’s usual expenses, and child support hearing questions will be asked about the more serious expenses. Emergency medical expenses will have to be proven, and extra responsibilities, such as other children with another person, will have to be verified.
From the answers to these questions, and with the guidelines set by the state, the judge will come up with a figure that the non-custodial parent must provide regularly for the child’s support.
Texas Child Support Law
After termination of the marriage, ordinarily, one parent becomes the primary custodial parent, while the other parent retains visitation rights and provides financial assistance. Less often, parents sometimes agree to joint custody arrangements in which the child’s time is split equally between both parents. Two major issues often dictate subsequent arrangements:
- Who gets custody?
- How much does the other parent pay?
Texas child support laws provide the answers. These two issues account for the bulk of litigation over child support law requirements.
Child Support Law in Houston – Custody
The test used to determine the primary custodial parent almost always turns on the best interest of the child. Historically, since the adoption of the “Tender Years Doctrine” in the late 1800s, mothers are considered more appropriate caregivers for young children than their fathers. But not always. Child support laws and custody rights are balanced upon the court’s inquiry into the facts surrounding each case.
Children who are emotionally mature are usually allowed to testify regarding their preference. Conversely, parents may agree upon custody terms and courts are reluctant to interfere unless the best interest of the child is compromised.
TX Child Support Law – Payments
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act requires states to enact child support laws and guidelines for the calculation of support payments. Usually, payments are based on income, as a percentage, which increases for each additional child. The method of calculation and percentages do vary widely from state to state. The definition of regular income, allowable deductions, and mandatory insurance coverage are particularly susceptible to dispute.
The normal practice for family law lawyers is to negotiate all issues simultaneously, with the settlement and agreed final orders dependent on the complete resolution of all outstanding issues. Court approval of all agreements is required.