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Texas Child Support
Child Support in Texas

Support amounts are based on income and ability to pay according to state guidelines. Texas considers the financial support of children to be a joint responsibility of both parents. However, in determining the amount of child support paid by the noncustodial parent, only the noncustodial parent's income is considered.

Support is a flat percentage of the noncustodial parent's income (less allowable deductions) for each child. The courts presume that the custodial parent spends at least an equal percentage of his or her income directly in child support. The income/salary of the custodial parent generally does not come into question unless there is evidence that simply following the guidelines is not in the best interest of the child.

In Texas, child support is based on state guidelines that factor in the paying parent's net income and other resources, as follows:

  • 20 percent of net resources for one child;
  • 25 percent of net resources for two children;
  • 30 percent of net resources for three children;
  • 35 percent of net resources for four children; and
  • 40 percent of net resources for five children.

The court considers any child support or alimony payments made by a parent in connection with a previous failed marriage when calculating support for the pending divorce. If one parent is making verifiable support payments that are not court-ordered, the courts consider this in the pending case.

Texas uses a complex set of guidelines and formulas to determine how support should be paid when a noncustodial parent has children in multiple households. It is based on adding a total support obligation for all children as if they lived in one household. The procedure then considers the number of children involved in the current proceeding, and applies credits for support to children who are not part of the current proceeding. There is much more involved in this particular aspect of determining support.

Without the aid of counsel or a state caseworker, these amounts are very difficult to calculate. The resources or needs of either parent's new spouse or dependants may not be used to increase or decrease the child support obligation.

The exception to this is award of additional court-ordered support payments. If the noncustodial parent remarries, has a second family, then divorces again, they can seek a modification based on court-ordered support for the second family.

Support payments, alimony or similar obligations in place prior to the second divorce/support proceeding are considered in modifications. The court cannot set a level of support that totals more than 50 to 65 percent of the noncustodial parent's earnings, when support payments are calculated from all court orders. As a result, a custodial parent (or parents) may only receive a prorated share of their support if the noncustodial parent has multiple support orders.

Either or both parents may be ordered to make periodic, lump sum, or both types of child support payments. There are official child support guidelines set out in the statute and these are presumed to be reasonable and in the best interests of the child. The factors for consideration are:

  • the age and needs of the child;
  • the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;
  • any financial resources available for the support of the child;
  • the amount of possession and access to the child;
  • the net resources of the parent to pay support, including the earning potential of the parent to pay support if the actual income of that parent is significantly less than what that parent could earn, if intentionally unemployed or underemployed;
  • any childcare expenses necessary for the employment of either parent;
  • whether a parent has custody of another child and any child support expenses being paid or received for the care of another child;
  • the amount of alimony being currently paid or received;
  • provisions for health care;
  • any educational or health care needs of the child, including college expenses;
  • any benefits a parent receives from an employer;
  • any debts or obligations of a parent;
  • any wage or salary deductions of the parents;
  • the cost of traveling to visit the child;
  • any positive or negative cash flow from any assets, including a business or investments;
  • any provisions for health care or insurance;
  • any special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parents or the child;
  • whether either parent has a car or housing furnished by an employer or other person or business; and
  • any other relevant factor.

The court may order health insurance coverage to be provided for the child. In addition, the court may order income withholding to secure the payment of child support. Child support is described in the Texas Codes Annotated; Family Code, Chapters 154.001 to 154.309.

Once this amount is determined it is essential to take a look at any appropriate Texas child support deviation factors that may be applicable to the situation. Additional information about Texas child support can be found in the Texas state statutes.

Other Expenses and Deductions

Extraordinary expenses are either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment, or deductions, where the amount is deducted, and indicated as either mandatory or permissive. Extraordinary medical expenses are considered mandatory deductions. Childcare costs are a deviation factor.

In any divorce proceeding where children are involved, the court assigns a health benefit plan to be maintained, usually through either parent's employment. In Texas, medical insurance premiums are assumed to be the responsibility of the noncustodial parent. Medical insurance premiums are considered an addition to the amount of support that is otherwise calculated by using the support guidelines.

The court orders other remedies for providing health care/insurance if there is no health plan reasonably available.

Most often, the noncustodial parent maintains a policy available through their employer. If that is not possible and the custodial parent has a policy available through their employer, the custodial parent will enroll the child, and the noncustodial parent will be ordered to pay the premium. If the custodial parent does not have a policy available, the court may order the noncustodial parent to purchase a policy. If the noncustodial parent cannot afford a private policy, they may be ordered to apply for coverage through Texas Healthy Kids Corporation.

If that coverage is not available, as a last resort, the noncustodial parent will be ordered to pay an additional amount of support for medical expenses.

Child Support Enforcement

When the noncustodial parent fails to pay child support as ordered, the custodial parent can seek enforcement by the court. In Texas, methods of enforcement include wage garnishment, seizure of lottery winnings and tax refunds and suspension of drivers', business, and hunting licenses. If the support continues to go unpaid, the noncustodial parent can be held in contempt and be sentenced to six months in jail.

More information about Texas Child Support Enforcement can be found at their website.

Emancipation

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, a court can order the obligation to continue for an indefinite period if the child is disabled. A child will automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies. If the child turns 18 before he or she graduates from high school, the parent must pay child support until graduation. Child support can terminate earlier if the child becomes emancipated before age 18. Emancipation occurs when the child marries, gives birth to a child of her own or enlists in the military.

Deviation Factors

Extraordinary and/or non-reimbursed medical expenses may be cause for the court to deviate from the standard support guidelines, but generally are treated as an expense that is allocated between the parents according to their financial circumstances.

Daycare costs are considered after the basic support obligation is determined. The cost of day care incurred by either parent in order to obtain or maintain employment may be treated as a reason to deviate from the standard support guidelines.

Private school tuition, for instance, is a deviation factor.

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