If you and your spouse are divorcing amicably, you may have tossed around the idea of foregoing child support entirely. This brings up the question-- can parents agree to no child support in Texas?
The short answer is: maybe. At the end of the day, courts will only approve child support agreements that differ from the state guidelines if they feel it's in the best interest of the child.
- Judges will be more likely to allow parents to agree to no child support if both parties are financially stable and there is a high level of cooperation between them.
Let's take a closer look at what you need to know about agreeing to no child support in Texas.
Can Parents Make Their Own Child Support Agreement?
In general, Texas judges are encouraging of couples coming to their own agreements regarding a number of issues, including child support.
At the same time, they won’t approve any old agreement you come up with. In order for a child support agreement to be approved, the court must find that the terms support the best interest of the child.
It’s worth noting that it can be quite difficult to change the amount of child support you are giving or receiving after the fact if you stray from the guidelines.
Can Parents Agree to No Child Support in Texas?
One question that comes up every once in a while is whether or not parents in Texas can agree to no child support. In these instances, both involved parties are in agreement that child support doesn’t need to be paid or received.
In order to determine the answer, we have to look at Texas Family Code 154.124.
- Here, we see that couples are able to create a written agreement regarding child support between them.
- However, the court ultimately has the final say over whether or not child support is necessary.
The reason for this is that the agreement must be found to be in the best interest of the child. If the court believes it isn’t. They can order child support despite the agreement you’ve both signed.
The short answer is that whether or not you can forgo child support is up to the judge. In order for your child support agreement to be legally binding, it has to be first approved by the court.
What Factors Will a Judge Consider When Deciding Whether to Approve Your Child Support Agreement?
The best interest of the child is always the most important factor when it comes to child support agreements in a Texas divorce. It is possible to create an agreement that states neither of you will exchange child support, but it isn’t necessarily a given that the courts will approve it.
Some of the factors that will be taken into consideration when the court looks at your agreement include:
- Full agreement: The parents have a comprehensive agreement covering various aspects of the child's well-being, such as custody, visitation, and financial responsibilities.
- Financial sufficiency: The court may be more open to agreements that demonstrate both parents are financially stable and capable of providing for the child's needs without the necessity of child support.
- Parental cooperation: If the parents can demonstrate a high level of cooperation and effective communication in their parenting arrangement, the court may be more inclined to approve their agreement.
- Child's best interests: The agreement should clearly show that waiving child support is genuinely in the best interests of the child, ensuring that the child's needs are adequately met.
You can learn more about how to find the right child support lawyer in Texas in this post.
Child Support in Texas: The Basics
Child support laws exist to make sure both parents are financially contributing to the upbringing of their child.
Here is some of the basic information you’ll want to know about how child support law is structured in Texas:
- Texas child support guidelines: Texas uses child support guidelines to calculate the amount of child support a noncustodial parent is required to pay. These guidelines take into account the income of both parents, the number of children, and certain expenses.
- How income impacts child support: The court considers the gross income of the noncustodial parent when calculating child support. This includes wages, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of income.
- How the amount of child support is determined: The child support obligation is usually a percentage of the noncustodial parent's income. The percentages are applied to the noncustodial parent's net income after certain deductions.
- Additional expenses can also be considered: In addition to basic child support, parents may be required to share other expenses, such as healthcare, childcare, and education. These additional expenses are typically divided based on the parents' incomes.
- Health insurance coverage for children in divorce: The court may order the noncustodial parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child. The cost of health insurance is factored into the child support calculation.
- Changing child support orders: Child support orders can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a significant change in income or changes in the child's needs.
- The enforcement of child support orders: If a parent fails to pay the court-ordered child support, enforcement measures may be taken. This could include wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, or other legal actions.
- Parental rights and responsibilities in Texas: Child support is separate from issues related to child custody and visitation. Even if a noncustodial parent is not granted visitation rights, they may still be obligated to pay child support.
- All court-ordered child support payments must go through the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit (SDU): Court-ordered child support payments must be processed through the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, a centralized unit that handles the collection and distribution of child support payments. You can’t give the money directly to the other parent.
- Courts must approve agreements made by parents that stray from the guidelines: While parents can agree on child support arrangements, the final child support order must be approved by the court to ensure it is in the best interests of the child.
Child Support Agreements: Things to Consider
When you are creating a child support agreement with your spouse during divorce, there are a number of important questions that have to be answered. There is much more on the table than simply determining whether or not you want to forgo child support payments.
For example, health insurance coverage should be discussed in your agreement. Under Texas law, health insurance could be required to be provided for the child by one or both parents. Your agreement, therefore, might need to include information about how uninsured medical expenses will be covered and who is responsible for carrying out the insurance policy.
You’ll also want to touch up how the following expenses will be covered:
- The cost of extracurricular activities
- The cost of childcare expenses
- The cost of supporting any of the child’s special needs
Furthermore, it’s important to also address what will happen if:
- The needs of the child change down the road
- The financial circumstances of either parent change in the future
If either of the above happens, you’ll want to have a plan for how this will impact child support.
As you can see, creating this type of agreement is no easy task. This is why most experts would advise that you hire an experienced attorney to help you draft and negotiate the terms of the document.
Would a Court Be More Likely to Approve Forgoing Child Support For High-Income Parents?
In Texas, child support decisions are generally based on guidelines that take into account the income of both parents, among other factors. The guidelines are designed to ensure that children receive adequate financial support from both parents, regardless of their income levels. However, there might be instances where higher-income couples are more likely to reach agreements that involve little or no formal child support payments.
Here are some of the reasons that this is the case:
- Financial Sufficiency: If both parents have substantial financial resources and can demonstrate that they can provide for the child's needs without a formal child support order, the court may be more open to approving such arrangements.
- Legal Representation: Higher-income couples are more likely to afford highly experienced legal representation, which can help in crafting agreements that align with the best interests of the child and comply with the law.
Looking for more info about the financial implications of divorce? Take a look at our guides to spousal support and alimony in Texas.
Understanding Child Support in Texas
Getting divorced is always stressful, but when children are involved, it can reach an entirely different level. For this reason, parents who are hoping to divorce amicably and want to keep things simple might try to avoid having a child support agreement altogether.
While it is possible for the courts to approve an agreement that forgoes child support, they can also make child support orders despite your agreement.
Are you looking for more resources about divorce in the Lone Star State? Make sure you check out our Texas Divorce Laws blog!