Every state has child support guidelines to help determine how much support a parent should pay for a child or children after divorce (or in the case that the parents are unmarried.) If you’re getting divorced and you have children, you are likely trying to figure out what your financial future is going to look like. How does child support in Texas work, and how much is it?
A number of different factors will influence how much child support is paid in your case, including the income of the noncustodial parent and how many children require support.
While there is a general cultural assumption that child support is paid by the father to the mother, this isn’t always the case. In fact, Texas law states that child support should be determined without regard to the sex of the parent making payments, the parent receiving payments, or the children.
Understanding which spouse will be more likely to pay child support in a Texas divorce and how much these payments will be can help you plan for your future post-divorce. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about child support in Texas.
Child support is a payment made by a parent for the financial benefit of a child after the end of a marriage. These payments are periodic and ongoing.
This issue can be one of the more contentious and stressful topics in a divorce. Child support is taken very seriously by Texas courts, and the focus is always on the best interest of the children.
If a court orders one parent to pay child support, this is not optional or voluntary. The parent that is ordered to make child support payments has a legal duty to do so.
In the state of Texas, the person that is obligated to make child support payments is referred to as the obligor. The obligee, on the other hand, is the person that is entitled to receive child support. In almost all cases, the obligee will be the parent that has primary possession of the child. This means that the child lives with them and they pay most of the living expenses for the child.
As you might imagine, the person that doesn’t have primary possession of the child is typically the obligor. These individuals may or may not have partial possession or access to the child.
Who makes child support payments in Texas is almost always determined by physical custody. Physical custody refers to how much time a child spends with each parent.
A judge has the ability to order either parent to make child support payments. In almost all cases, though, the parent that spends the least time with the child (the “noncustodial parent”) will be the one that pays child support to the other spouse.
Of course, simply because the noncustodial parent usually pays for child support, that doesn’t mean the other parent isn’t dealing with the expense of raising their children. Texas law assumes that the custodial parent is spending money supporting the children directly through the daily costs of having children.
Are you wondering how much your divorce is going to cost? Take a look at this guide to the cost of divorce in Texas.
How much money the obligor has to pay to the obligee each month will depend on a number of factors. The guidelines set forth by Texas law are as follows:
There are limits set to how much child support can be paid, however. For example, if the obligor has a net monthly income that is higher than $7,500, the calculations for child support will only apply to the first $7,500 of their income each month.
If the obligee believes they require more child support, they will have to prove this need to the court. If the court agrees that the need exists, they can order the obligee to make larger child support payments.
Some of the needs that an obligee might have that could serve as proof to the court include:
If the obligee is only able to prove that their children will require an additional $400 a month, for example, the court will only order the obligee to pay $400 beyond the minimum guidelines.
The Texas Office of the Attorney General offers an online Monthly Child Support Calculator that you can use to get a simple estimate of child support in your case. When using this calculator, though, it’s important to understand that it was designed for circumstances where the custodial parent has only one income source. If this isn’t your situation, you’ll have to identify both net monthly income and how that relates to the amount of support outlined in the guidelines.
For the purposes of calculating income, child support includes:
A person that is unemployed might still be considered to have some sources of income. Sources in these cases might include:
In certain cases, if deemed appropriate, a judge might assign a specific income value to the assets that a parent owns when they aren’t currently creating income. For example, this could be the case if a parent owns a second home.
Let’s say that a parent is unemployed but they inherit property that they could rent out or sell. The judge might assign a value to this asset and consider it a portion of their income.
Sometimes, a parent will be underemployed or voluntarily unemployed with the express purpose of avoiding making child support payments. If a judge infers that this is the case, they might choose to impute (or attribute) income based upon the expected earning of that individual.
In order to determine the net resources that a parent has for paying child support, there are a number of costs you’ll want to subtract from the total gross income you calculated early. These are:
A parent can take credit for child support payments they are already making for another child or children from a separate relationship.
At the point when you’ve figured out the net monthly income of the noncustodial parent, you can multiply that number based on the percentage outlined below depending on how many children require support. If you found the annual net income of the noncustodial parent, you can divide this number by twelve to find the net monthly income.
When a noncustodial parent doesn’t have $1000 in net monthly resources, it reduces the percentage of child support owed by five percentage points. This means that the support payment for one child would be 15% instead of 20%, and the support payment for five children would be 35% instead of 40%.
A judge might decide to increase the amount of support children receive depending on both the needs of the children and the income of both parents. If a noncustodial parent surpasses a specific threshold for net monthly resources, the judge also can increase how much support is owed.
Every six years, the threshold is revisited and altered to account for changes in inflation over time.
The presumption is generally that the noncustodial parent will provide health care coverage for the children. If it makes more sense for the custodial parent to provide this insurance, however, the responsibility can change easily.
An example of this would be if the custodial parent has a job where health insurance for dependents is provided through their employer while the noncustodial parent doesn’t have employment with this benefit.
Are you wondering how child support works if you are getting divorced from an informal marriage? Check out this article about common law marriage in Texas.
There are a number of instances when child support might end up being more or less than the amount suggested by the guidelines.
When a judge deals with a child support case, they will initially assume that the best interest of the child will be met by the guidelines. However, a judge has the power to change how much support is paid if they find that it’s inappropriate or unjust to simply follow the guidelines.
Judges will take a number of factors into consideration when making this decision, including:
A judge will have to be able to clearly state the reasons why it would be inappropriate or unfair to follow the guidelines as they are laid out in order to require a different amount of child support to be paid than what is stated in the guidelines.
It’s worth noting that you and your spouse are always free to agree to child support payments that are more than the amount listed by the guidelines. This is something you can work out in a divorce settlement agreement, for example. However, if the amount you agree upon is less than the amount suggested by the guidelines, the onus will be on you to explain why it would be appropriate to apply the guideline.
Remember, the judge is always coming from the place of protecting the best interest of the child. If they don’t believe your agreement is in the best interest of the child when you’ve agreed to child support payments below the guidelines, they won’t approve your agreement.
Are you a good candidate for getting a divorce without a lawyer? Take a look at this guide to DIY divorce in Texas.
If you and your spouse are engaged in an adversarial battle over child support, you might feel relieved once child support orders are established. However, collecting support is the other half of the battle. The obligor is required by law to pay the full amount of child support every month.
Typically, these payments are made through one of the following forms unless otherwise specified:
Parents can make support payments through the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. There are a number of different methods to make these payments, including having wages withheld or paying an online payment.
If you have a child that requires “substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support,” and the disability that they have was known to exist or existed on or before the eighteenth birthday of the child, then you can seek child support for an indefinite period.
If you are the parent that has physical custody or guardianship of a child or adult with a disability under a court order, you have the standing to sue for support under Texas state law.
You are allowed to request a modification to an existing child support order once it’s in place. In order to be granted this change, though, you will have to show that circumstances have substantially changed. This might mean that the amount of support your children need has changed or that your ability to pay support has changed.
The same legal requirements that applied to the original child support order will be used by a judge to make a decision regarding your request to modify child support orders.
You can spend time with your children unless there is a court order that restricts the time you spend with your children. In the eyes of the court, visitation rights and child support are two separate issues. That being said, both parents are legally obligated to obey both the possession portion of the order and the child support portion of the order.
A custodial parent is required to make your child available to you if your court order has a possession order. This is true even if you are unable to pay child support.
Even if you aren't paying child support, the custodial parent can't simply refuse to let you see your child if you are rightfully allowed to do so according to the possession order.
If you can't pay child support and the custodial parent is refusing your parenting time, you can file a motion to enforce the portion of your order that relates to possession and access.
When a parent doesn't obey court orders, there are potential legal consequences. That being said, not paying child support as you are ordered to do is a violation of the child support order and your spouse could choose to file a motion to enforce this order.
There are a number of different ways that conservatorship can be done in Texas. As a refresher, a conservatorship is the rights and duties of the parents (for example, to make medical decisions, make decisions regarding their education, etc.)
In some cases, one parent might have sole managing conservatorship, where they make all of the decisions. In others, both parents make the decisions about their children, which is known as joint managing conservatorship.
You and your spouse can come to a parenting arrangement that works for you in your divorce settlement agreement. If the case goes to trial, a court will decide what is in the best interest of the child.
If a child is at least twelve years old, the court is required to interview the child and find out what their wishes are about custody. This is required by Texas law. The court will still make a decision that they believe is in the best interest of the child, but children that are twelve or older have the opportunity to share their preferences.
When a noncustodial parent doesn't make the required child support payments, they are subject to enforcement measures by the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office.
There are a number of different measures that the Child Support Division might use in order to enforce these orders. These include:
If a noncustodial parent owes more than three months of past-due child support, isn't in compliance with a voluntary repayment schedule or existing-court order can face license suspension.
In addition to the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office, there are also child support offices, private collections agencies, private attornies, and county-operated domestic relations offices that provide some services for child support enforcement.
If you choose to use the service of a private agency in order to enforce child support orders, it's important that you read all of the fine print before signing anything.
In some instances, private agencies are able to process child support cases faster than the Child Support Division. According to the Texas Attorney General's Office, this is because many of the cases that come into the CSD don't have child support orders or established paternity. Most cases that are handled by private child support collection agencies or county domestic relations offices already have child support orders in place and established paternity.
Very few people find it interesting to page through state legal codes, but understanding the laws when you’re getting divorced is essential to ensuring that you receive a positive outcome after divorce. On top of that, it’s a lot easier to be anxious and stressed when you don’t understand something. The more you grasp the way that family law works in relation to a Texas divorce, the better able you’ll be to navigate the entire process.
Reading articles online should never serve as a substitute for working with a divorce attorney. If you’re unsure whether or not you need a lawyer in your case, it’s a good idea to at least meet with a few for a consultation. They will be able to help you understand what the process will look like depending on the specific factors involved in your case.
However, learning about the process on your own can help you regain control during a time that can often feel chaotic. If you’re looking for more easy-to-digest resources about Texas divorces, be sure to check out our library of divorce articles.