Child Support when the guideline amount is insufficient

When it comes to a divorce or child custody case, one of the most frequently heard questions that I receive is how much does the State of Texas require be paid on a monthly basis in child support. If you’re the parent who typically cares for your child during the week the concern is that the amount that is going to be ordered paid will not be enough to pay for all of the expenses that come with raising a child. On the other hand, if you’re the parent who anticipates that the burden will fall on you to pay child support then your concern may be that whatever the ordered amount is that it will be too much for you to afford on a monthly basis.

The bottom line is that the State of Texas has set forth a standard amount of child support that should be paid by a noncustodial parent to the custodial parent based on the amount of child the noncustodial parent has responsibility for. While we can debate whether the percentages of the owing parent’s net income or the method of calculation is fair, the fact remains that it is the law until further notice. How and why this child support obligation may be deviated from is the topic of today’s blog post. In what situations may a court order you to pay more than the amount listed in the Texas Family Code?

Background on the calculation of child support in Texas

To figure out what your child support obligation would be you will need to figure out what you earn each month before taxes and other amounts are deducted. This figure, known as your gross income, includes income earned from your salary, investments, rental income and even disability pay/income. Basically, if you are earning money from just about any source it counts when it comes to child support calculations.

Once your gross income is calculated, items such as social security taxes, health insurance premiums and union dues will be deducted to arrive at your net monthly income. This is the amount that you will utilize in order to figure out just what your monthly child support obligation would be. I should note that if you earn more than $8,550 per month you will only be responsible for paying support up to the income on $8.550. Any amount of income that you earned beyond this number is not relevant for child support calculation purposes.

The Texas Family Code has a chart that will determine the specific percentage that will be multiplied by your net monthly income in order to determine your child support obligation. It is important to note that not only is the number of children that you have that are presently involved in your divorce or child custody case relevant, but so is the number of other children that you have a duty to support who are not in this current case. Basically you get an offset based on any other children who are out there in this world who are not the children of the opposing party to your child custody or divorce case. Percentages range from 20% for one child up to 40% for five or more children, in terms of your monthly net income to be paid for child support.

When is it appropriate for a court to order a child support payment greater than the guidelines amount?

We can first look to situations where theobligor parent (the one who owes support) earns a much higher income than the parent who receives child support or when a child needs expensive medical treatment for when a child support order where a greater than statutory amount must be paid.

In order to alter the guidelines amount of child support it is necessary for you to first present evidence to the court that the guideline amount of support that would be ordered is unjust or inappropriate as that term is defined by the Texas Family Code. The second part of the process is that the parent who stands to receive the child support must show the court that there is a reasonable amount of support to pay and what their amount is correct.

Specific factors that the judge may look at when considering a request for a higher than guidelines amount of child support to be paid are the needs of each child, the frequency with which each parent has possession and access to the children, and the financial statuses of both parents. Educational expenses is a huge factor to be considered as well. Namely, if you are the parent who is expected to pay for costs of a private school or daycare then it may not be possible for a judge to order you to also pay a higher than guidelines amount of child support.

Practical, real world factors that are also included as part of a judge’s analysis include the cost of providing health insurance for the children, travel costs for both parents (if any) when the children are in their possession and also in what way was the marital estate divided. If you are the parent who will be expected to pay child support then it is unlikely that a court would order you pay a higher than guidelines amount of support if your spouse was awarded a disproportionate share of the community estate or that you took on a majority of the debts from the marriage.

Questions on Child Support? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

While I could not get into every minute detail of Texas Child Support laws in this blog post, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan does offer free of charge consultations if you have additional questions. A licensed family law attorney with our office is available six days a week to meet with you and have your questions answered. Across southeast Texas, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has earned a reputation for strong and effective advocacy of our clients. We would be honored to have the opportunity to speak with you about your family law case and to answer any questions that you may have.


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