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Is Child Support Mandatory Under Texas Law After Divorce?

Sophia Merton
February 16, 2024

When you’re getting divorced, one of the biggest questions on your mind is going to be how this will affect your finances. If you have children with your spouse, you might be wondering: is child support mandatory under Texas law?

The short answer is: not exactly.

It is technically possible for parents to agree to no child support. However, this agreement isn’t legally binding unless a judge signs off on it, and the court might choose to issue child support orders regardless of the agreement made by the parents.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the laws surrounding child support and the more specific details about how and why a court might allow parents to forgo child support.

After Divorce in Texas, Is Child Support Mandatory?

It is very common for child support orders to be put in place as a part of divorce in Texas. That being said, it isn’t mandatory.

mom with son in texas with mandatory child support

It’s essential to understand that the best interest of the child is always the guiding factor for the courts. In order to protect the well-being of the child, a judge ultimately has the final say over whether or not a child support order will be put in place.

There are child support guidelines in the state of Texas that intend to help courts determine how much child support should be paid in a particular case. Parents are more than welcome to come to an agreement that involves paying a higher sum than is outlined in the guidelines. However, a judge is going to be much more stringent when looking at an agreement that involves an amount that is lower than the guidelines or that states that no child support will be paid.

What the Texas Family Code Says

Parties are allowed, under Texas Family Code 154.124, to put an agreement in writing that has to do with child support payments. A court will look at the agreement and can choose to order child support regardless of the agreement. The reason for this is that they must act in the best interest of the child.

  • Essentially, it’s all up to the judge whether or not you can sidestep child support. A judge will have to sign off on the agreement in order for it to be legally binding, even when both parties have signed the document.
  • It’s worth understanding that judges often won’t go along with this type of agreement. In many cases, they find that child support orders are necessary in order to support the best interest of the child or children involved.

Can Parents Agree to No Child Support After Divorce?

Yes, parents in Texas can agree to no child support after divorce, but such an agreement must be approved by the court to be legally binding.

parents agreed to no child support in texas with daughter

Even if the parents mutually agree to forgo child support payments, the court will still need to ensure that the arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The court will consider various factors before approving the agreement, including the financial circumstances of both parents, the child's needs, and whether the agreement is ‘just and right.’

  • One important point is that child support is intended to ensure that the child's needs are met, and any agreement to forgo child support should not compromise the child's well-being.

It’s definitely a good idea to consult with an attorney if you want to forgo child support in Texas to ensure that their agreement complies with Texas laws and is properly documented and presented to the court for approval.

Why Would Parents Want to Agree to No Child Support?

Parents might want to avoid child support orders for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Keeping relations friendly and amicable: Some parents may prioritize maintaining a positive relationship with each other for the sake of their children. Agreeing to no child support can help reduce conflict and promote cooperation between the parents.
  • Allowing for greater financial independence after divorce: Another reason parents might want to agree to no child support is that they may prefer to maintain financial independence from each other after the divorce. Agreeing to no child support can potentially allow both parents to manage their finances separately without being financially obligated to each other through a court order.
  • Allowing for more control and flexibility after divorce: Parents who have an amicable relationship and trust each other to assist in raising their children might find that avoiding child support orders can help them have more control over how they support their children and divide expenses.
  • Incorporating non-financial contributions: Parents might find that they are comfortable outlining the non-financial contributions of each party after divorce in supporting their children. This could include things like taking on additional caregiving responsibilities, providing emotional support, or other support actions and activities.

What Factors Influence Whether a Court Agrees to No Child Support After Divorce?

In Texas, courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making decisions regarding child support. While it's possible for parents to come to an agreement regarding child support that does not involve payments from one parent to the other, it's ultimately up to the court to approve such an arrangement.

mom with daughter in texas with mandatory child support

Several factors may influence whether a court agrees to no child support after divorce in Texas:

  • Agreement between the two parents: If both parents mutually agree that no child support payments are necessary and can provide evidence to the court that this arrangement is in the best interests of the child, the court may be more inclined to approve it.
  • The financial ability of both parents: The court will consider the financial circumstances of both parents, including their incomes and expenses, to make sure that the child's needs can be adequately met without child support orders.
  • Custody and visitation arrangements: Additionally, a Texas court will consider the custody and visitation arrangements in place. If one parent has primary custody and handles the majority of the child-rearing expenses, the court may be less likely to approve a no-child-support arrangement.
  • The needs of the child: The court will prioritize the child's needs, including expenses related to education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and other necessities. If the child has special needs or expenses, the court may be less inclined to agree to no child support.

Understanding Child Support in Texas

Now that we’ve looked at whether child support is mandatory in Texas let’s take a look at some of the nuts and bolts of how child support works in the Lone Star State.

Who Pays For Child Support

In Texas, the parent who does not have primary custody of the child typically pays child support to the parent with primary custody. This is often referred to as the "noncustodial parent" paying child support to the "custodial parent."

The amount of child support is determined based on factors such as the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and any special needs of the children. Texas has specific guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code, as mentioned above, that courts use to calculate child support payments.

All that being said, it's important to note that child support is intended to contribute to the financial support of the child, and both parents are generally responsible for providing for the child's needs, regardless of custody arrangements.

How Child Support Is Calculated in Texas

There are two primary factors that influence how much child support is owed according to the guidelines in Texas.

These are:

  1. How many children the non-custodial parent is supporting through child support
  2. The monthly income after taxes of the non-custodial parent

Here is the basic outline of the guidelines for child support in Texas, referring to the percentage of the noncustodial parents net monthly income:

  • 20% for one child
  • 25% for two children
  • 30% for three children
  • 35% for four children
  • 40% for five children
  • Not less than 40% for six or more children

How Child Support Payments Are Made

In Texas, child support payments are made through the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

There are a number of ways that child support payments can be made, including:

  • Income Withholding Orders
  • Direct Payments to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit (SDU)
  • Electronic payments through the Texas Child Support Portal

Navigating Divorce, Child Support, and Child Custody in Texas

Child support isn’t exactly mandatory in Texas after divorce. However, it’s important to understand that it’s not necessarily as easy as coming to an agreement with your spouse that states neither of you are interested in giving or receiving support payments.

The reason for this is that a judge will have to sign off on the agreement in order for it to be legally binding. The issue of child support focuses on supporting the well-being and best interest of the child. For this reason, a judge can choose to issue child support orders regardless of the agreement made between two parents.

Are you navigating the family court system in Texas? Make sure you check out our Texas family law blog for more articles, insights, and resources.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is a researcher and writer that aims to help make the complexities of the legal system understandable to the layperson. Believing that people can be empowered by understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law, Sophia aims to offer accurate and well-researched information in straightforward and easy-to-digest legal articles.

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