Whether you are determining child support as a part of a divorce or you are embroiled in a child support case as an unmarried parent, this is often a contentious issue in Texas family law. Understanding how much you should expect to pay or receive child support is an important piece of information that will help you budget in the future.
The state of Texas has guidelines that dictate the minimum percentage of a parent’s net monthly income will be paid in child support.
This means that the exact amount you will pay or receive will depend on a number of factors, including the net monthly resources of the paying parents as well as how many children require support.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know in order to estimate the amount of child support payments that will be required in your case each month.
Parents are required to financially support their children. In most cases, a parent who doesn’t have custody of their children will be required by law to provide financial support to the custodial parent until the child becomes an adult.
If you are getting divorced and you have children, child support is frequently one of the contested issues that needs to be addressed. For unmarried parents, paternity must be established before either parent can ask the court to order child support.
The courts in Texas take child support very seriously. When making decisions related to child support, the court’s primary focus is the best interest of the children.
When a court orders the parent of a child to make child support payments, it is mandatory. The parent ordered to pay child support has a legal duty to do so and can face consequences if they fail to make the required payments.
Like all other U.S. states, Texas has guidelines regarding how divorcing or unmarried parents will both take financial responsibility for their children. These guidelines are used to calculate the amount of child support that a parent will pay each month.
The person that is ordered to make these payments is known as the obligor. The person that is entitled to receive child support payments, on the other hand, is known as the obligee.
There is an assumption that fathers are always the ones that pay child support to mothers, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, the court can order either or both parents to make child support payments.
That being said, it’s almost always the noncustodial parent that makes payments to the custodial parent.
The custodial parent is the parent that has primary possession of the child. This means that the child lives with them most of the time and they take on the responsibility of paying most of the child’s living expenses. As you might imagine, the noncustodial parent is the parent that doesn’t have primary possession of the child.
The parent that doesn’t have custody and is ordered to pay child support may or may not have partial possession or access to their children.
The purpose of Texas child support laws is to cover, at minimum, the basic needs of the children financially until they graduate from high school or turn eighteen, whichever comes later. Child support obligations will also end if the child becomes emancipated, gets married, or passes away.
For a more in-depth overview, check out our guide to Texas child support laws.
There are a number of factors that will determine how much money the obligor has to pay to the obligee on a monthly basis. The percentage of the paying parent’s income that goes toward child support is calculated based on how many children are being supported.
The guidelines in Texas are as follows:
These guidelines only apply up to a certain monthly income, however. If the obligor makes more than $7,500 in net monthly income, for example, the first $7,500 will be the only income that is considered when calculating child support payments.
Any obligee who believes they need to receive more child support will be required to prove this need to the court. Obligors can be ordered to make larger child support payments if the court does agree that this need, in fact, exists.
An obligee might ask the court to increase child support payments for a number of reasons, including:
It’s worth noting, though, that the court will only order the obligor to pay the precise additional amount that the obligee can prove is necessary. For instance, if the custodial parent proves that they need an additional $350 a month, the court will order that the noncustodial parent pays an extra $350 a month and no more.
If you’re dealing with child support in a divorce, you’re not just thinking about how much the monthly payments will be but also what your legal bills will be for the dissolution of the marriage. You can learn about the cost of a Texas divorce here.
The courts in Texas have the ability to order either or both parents to make child support payments. These payments typically end when the child turns eighteen years old or graduates from high school, whichever event happens later.
Other occurrences that end child support payments include:
Child support can be ordered to be paid indefinitely, however, if the court deems the child to be physically or mentally disabled.
Are you wondering what is included in child support payments? This article looks at what is and isn’t covered by child support in Texas.
Physical custody is almost always the factor that determines who makes child support payments and who receives them. Physical custody is a term that refers to how much time each parent spends with the child.
A judge has the power to order either parent or both, to make payments for child support. In general, though, the noncustodial parent (the one that spends the least amount of time with the child) makes payments to the other parent in order to help support the child financially.
The logic here is that the custodial parent is going to be spending money on a day-to-day basis to support the child. Child support isn’t intended to remove financial responsibility from the custodial parent, but instead to ensure that both parents are helping to support the child. Texas law assumes that the custodial parent is directly supporting the children through the daily costs of raising them.
The Texas guidelines for child support set a basic minimum amount of child support. According to Texas law, these guidelines are “presumed to be reasonable and an order of support conforming to the guidelines is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.”
That being said, child support orders can deviate from the guidelines if it is found to be in the best interest of the child.
These child support guidelines are applied based on the net monthly income of the obligor, which is typically the noncustodial parent.
There are two separate standards for how child support is calculated:
If the obligor has other children that they are responsible for supporting, this can also impact how their child support obligations are calculated.
The percentage of income that the obligor will be required to pay will depend on the number of children they owe support for.
To estimate how much child support you will be ordered to pay or receive, you can use the Monthly Child Support Calculator offered by the Texas Office of the Attorney General.
This calculator is designed to give an estimate in cases where the obligor only has one source of income, though. If the person that will be paying child support has more than one source of income, you’ll have to do some further calculations.
In order to figure out a rough estimate of how much child support you will pay or receive, you’ll need to identify your net monthly income and determine how it relates to the Texas child support guidelines.
The first step in determining your net monthly income is figuring out your gross monthly income.
When you are calculating how much child support you will pay or receive, you will include the following sources of income in your gross monthly income:
Even if the obligor doesn’t have a job, the court might still consider them to have some sources of income. If you (or the noncustodial parent) are unemployed, you’ll want to add up any of the following sources of income to determine the child support payments:
A judge might also assign a monetary value to specific assets owned by a parent if they deem it to be appropriate. This can occur when the parent isn’t actively generating income. For instance, a judge might assign value to a second property that a parent owns.
As an example, let’s say that the noncustodial parent doesn’t have a job but has inherited a property. This property could be sold or rented out, and the judge therefore might determine that this should be included in the income of the noncustodial parent.
Child support can be a contentious issue, and sometimes obligors aren’t interested in giving up a portion of their income every month to help support the needs of their child. In order to try and reduce the amount of money they have to pay, they might be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.
The courts don’t take this type of behavior kindly, however. If a judge believes that a parent is purposefully unemployed or underemployed, they might order child support payments to be made based upon the amount of money the individual could be making.
Once you have added up all of the sources of income received by the obligor, it’s time to move on to determining their net monthly income.
Figuring out the net monthly income for child support payments entails taking the gross monthly income found in the previous step and subtracting certain costs.
The costs that you can subtract from the gross monthly income for the purposes of child support are:
Additionally, if the parent who will be making child support payments is already making payments for children from a different relationship, the parent can take credit for these as well.
Now that you have determined the net monthly income for the obligor, it’s time to incorporate how many children will be receiving support.
The minimum percentage of the net monthly income of the obligor is outlined in the Texas guidelines as follows:
For example, let’s say that you are the noncustodial parent of two children in Texas. Your net monthly income is $5,000 a month for the purposes of paying child support. To estimate your child support payments, you would multiply $5,000 by .25.
$5,000 x .25 = $1250
This means that you would be required, at minimum, to pay $1250 a month in child support.
For obligors that make less than $1000 a month, the guidelines are as follows:
A judge has the ability to increase how much child support is owed depending on both parents’ income and the needs of the children. The judge also can increase how much support is owed if the income of the noncustodial parent surpasses a specific threshold.
The threshold, as set by the state, is changed every six years in Texas in order to account for inflation.
The guidelines in Texas are minimum guidelines, meaning that the state presumes that this is the amount that an obligor should pay in order to meet the minimum basic needs of the child or children.
If a judge believes that following the guidelines would be unfair or inappropriate to the children, they have the power to change how much support is paid.
A multitude of factors can be taken into consideration by the judge when determining whether it’s appropriate to deviate from the child support guidelines.
Some of these factors include:
In order to deviate from the guidelines, a judge is required to articulately state why following the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.
If you are working through the issue of child support in a divorce, you and your spouse are free to agree to larger monthly child support payments than those outlined by the Texas guidelines.
However, if you are interested in creating an agreement where child support payments are less than what is outlined in the guidelines, you will be responsible for proving to the court that following the guidelines would be inappropriate or unfair.
Texas judges in child support cases will always be primarily focused on protecting the child’s best interest. If you and your spouse agree to a payment amount that is less than the guideline and the judge isn’t convinced that it’s in the best interest of the child, they won’t approve the agreement.
When a child support order is made, it isn’t voluntary. This is a duty that the obligor has to uphold by law.
It is within the power of this office to enforce child support orders through a number of different methods, including:
An individual can be impacted by the license suspension law if they:
They won’t just suspend driver's licenses, but also professional licenses, fishing licenses, and hunting licenses. Sixty licensing agencies are identified under this statute.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions people have about child support in Texas.
In the state of Texas, the presumption is that the noncustodial parent will provide the children with health care coverage. This isn’t set in stone, though, and the custodial parent might be responsible for providing insurance if it makes more sense.
For example, let’s say that the noncustodial parent is employed by a company that doesn’t offer health insurance for dependents. The custodial parent, however, is employed by a company that offers these benefits. In this instance, it makes sense for the custodial parent to provide health care coverage rather than the custodial parent.
There are field offices throughout Texas for the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General. People can apply for services at these offices or request an application by visiting the Child Support Division's website.
It is hard to predict how long it will take to secure child support payments in any given case because there are a lot of different factors involved in obtaining child support.
If a case requires all of the services offered by the OAG-- including finding an absent parent, establishing paternity, establishing a support order, and enforcing the order-- it's going to take a lot longer than a case with a divorce decree and an established order.
Child support orders can only be modified by the court. Simply agreeing with the other parent to change the arrangement does not legally change the obligation outlined in an existing child support order.
In cases where paternity needs to be established, this can occur either voluntarily or by agreement of both parents. This is done by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity. When this document is filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit, it becomes a legal finding of paternity.
Neither parent should sign this document if either of them is uncertain about the paternity of the child. In these cases, paternity should be established through the Texas courts.
Child support is one of those issues that often leaves everyone involved feeling unsatisfied. Parents who are ordered to pay child support are often deeply impacted financially by the process, while parents who are ordered to receive child support often don’t feel that they’re receiving a fair amount of money when compared to the cost of raising a child.
Regardless of your situation, how well-positioned you are in your child support case is directly related to how much you understand the process. The more you know, the better able you are to make decisions that are in the best interest of your children.
Are you looking for more information about family law in Texas? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our articles about child support and custody, divorce, and marriage in Texas.