Child Support

– A non-custodial parent (the parent with whom the children don't live) is required to pay money to the custodial parent (the parent with whom the children live) for the support and maintenance of the children. The Texas Family Code requires the payment of child support until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, marries or otherwise becomes emancipated, or dies. Courts may order child support to continue past the age of 18 for children who are attending college or a trade school. If a child is disabled, child support may be ordered to continue indefinitely.

Under Texas law, an award of child support is based on the net resources of the obligor (the parent required to pay child support). The following expenses are deducted from the obligor's gross income to arrive at the net resources amount:

  • social security taxes
  • federal income tax based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction
  • state income tax
  • union dues
  • expenses for the cost of health insurance or cash medical support for the obligor's child ordered by the court

Once the court has determined the obligor's net resources, an award of child support will be made based upon the statutory guidelines as illustrated in the following table:

Number of Children

Percentage of Net Resources

1

2

3

4

5

6+

20%

25%

30%

35%

40%

Not less than the amount for 5 children

The above schedule is specifically designed to apply to situations where the obligor's monthly net resources do not exceed $7500.00. However, if the obligor's monthly net resources exceed $7500.00, the guidelines set forth in the table will be applied to that portion of the obligor's net resources which do not exceed $7500.00. The court has the authority to order additional support over and above that required by the guidelines based upon the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.

If the obligor is required to pay support for more than one child of the same marriage, the child support order must contain a provision for the automatic partial termination of support once each child reaches the age of 18 or otherwise becomes emancipated. The level of support for the remaining child or children must be in compliance with the child support guidelines.

If the obligor is required to support children in more than one household, courts are required to calculate child support using a very specific set of criteria. The court will use the percentage guidelines set forth above and will also make the following computations:

  • determine the amount of child support that would be ordered if all children whom the obligor has the legal duty to support lived in one household;
  • compute a child support credit for the obligor's children who are not before the court by dividing the amount required to support all children whom the obligor has a legal duty to support by the total number of children whom the obligor is obligated to support and multiplying that number by the number of the obligor's children who are not before the court;
  • determine the adjusted net resources of the obligor by subtracting the child support credit from the net resources of the obligor;
  • determine the child support amount for the children before the court by applying the percentage guidelines for one household for the number of children of the obligor before the court to the obligor's adjusted net resources

In determining the child support credit, the court will consider all children whom the obligor is legally required to support regardless of with whom those children live. Moreover, the fact that the obligor may be delinquent on a court ordered support obligation is irrelevant in computing the child support credit.

Besides the income or net resources of the non-custodial parent, the Texas Code authorizes the courts to adjust an order of support upward or downward based on a number of other factors. These factors include:

  • Age of the child and the child's needs and special expenses
  • Child care expenses
  • Other child support expenses and care
  • Any current alimony expenses
  • Medical and health care expenses and insurance
  • Educational expenses, including college
  • Employer benefits
  • Debts or other financial obligations of the parents
  • Wage deductions
  • Travel costs associated with child visitation
  • Income or expenses relating to the assets of the parents
  • Automobile, mortgage or lease payments

In situations where the parties share joint custody of the children, child support may be modified based upon the particular circumstances of the parties and the terms of the custody agreement.

Texas courts have the jurisdiction to enter orders for retroactive child support. In order to receive retroactive child support, the requesting party must initiate a suit seeking such support within four years of the child's eighteenth birthday. In considering a request for retroactive child support, a court will consider the following:

  • whether the mother of the child has made any previous attempts to notify the obligor of his paternity or probable paternity
  • whether the obligor had knowledge of his paternity or probable paternity
  • whether the order of retroactive child support will impose an undue financial hardship on the obligor or the obligor's family
  • whether the obligor has provided actual support or other necessaries before the filing of the action.

Courts are required to order that any health insurance coverage in effect for a child at the time a complaint for divorce is filed continue until the divorce is made final. This means that whichever spouse is providing health insurance for a child, must continue to do so unless otherwise ordered by the court. The only time that a court will waive this requirement is upon a showing of good cause. In other words, a party must give the court a good reason why, such as undue financial hardship, the coverage should not continue before this requirement can be waived.

Medical support which an obligor must pay is in addition to child support. So, if the obligee (the person to whom child support is paid) is ordered to maintain health insurance, the total amount of support paid by the obligor will be increased by the amount of the health insurance premium for the child.

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