For many of you reading this blog you probably have no idea how to begin a child support case. It could be that as the noncustodial parent of your child you have limited access right now even to see your child. Starting a child support case may be the further thing from your mind. You just want to be able to see your child. It may sound counterintuitive at first, but getting a child support order from a court may be just what you need to actually get to see your child with any regularity.
For the most part, it is the custodial parent that will initiate a child support case but it does not have to be like this. The thought is that the custodial parent has more to “gain” from a child support case in that he or she will be the one who actually receives the child support once it becomes ordered. As the non-custodial parent you may have the instinct to stay away from child support cases, but as we mentioned in the opening paragraph this may be the absolute wrong decision for you to make.
You can initiate a child support case in one of two ways. The quickest is to apply to be put into the child support system through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) at their website. The other and the arguably better way is to hire a family law attorney and proceed through the district courts via a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR).
A SAPCR will still set up child support for you but it will also give you an opportunity to have a full-on case regarding custody, visitation, access, and possession. If you believe that you ought to be the parent who receives child support and has your child primarily then you ought to file a SAPCR rather than proceed through the child support court.
Proceeding through the Child Support Courts
If you choose to proceed with your case and initiate one through the Child Support courts then your case will be set up for a negotiation conference between you, the custodial parent in a child support office. Often times this will occur in a satellite office around Houston if you are in Harris County where you do not have to go downtown.
If you and the custodial parent negotiate and cannot agree to an amount of child support or on other subjects like possession or visitation then your case will be set for a hearing before the judge.
Calculating Child Support
The most important aspect of a child support case is being able to establish what amount of child support you will be on the hook for moving forward. Fortunately, the State of Texas has established what is known as “Guideline” levels of support that are applied in almost every child support case in our state.
First and foremost the court will determine what your net monthly resources are. Taking out taxes and things of that nature all income that you earn will be considered fair game for this calculation. Wages, tips, commissions, bonuses, salary, rental income, disability benefits and social security benefits are all fair game to go towards child support.
Once your net monthly resources are determined a percentage will be applied to your resources in order to arrive at a specific child support obligation. If you have one child before the court 20% of your net monthly resources will go to child support. Two children are 25% on up to 40% of your income for five or more children. Under no circumstances is a court able to order than anything more than 50% of your net monthly resources be taken for child support.
If you are not working for any reason the court will assume a minimum wage earner’s monthly net resources in order to determine a level of support that you will be ordered to pay. No matter your situation it is smart to come to court with documents that can verify your monthly resources. Pay stubs, tax returns or other documents that show your benefits from social security or a disability insurance policy are what I am thinking of here.
Earning a credit for other children that you support and are responsible for
It could be that you have other children who are not engaged in this present child support case that you are also responsible for and provide support towards. If you are paying support for another child then you should bring with you the order that states what amount of money is already going towards child support of another child.
If you do not have a court order established for that child or children you should simply inform the judge of this information during your hearing.
Making child support payments
The OAG tracks all child support payments for you online. You can set yourself up with an account as the non-custodial parent so that you can check in and see what progress you are making towards full and timely payments.
Keep in mind that if you fall off track and become behind in paying support it is easy for either the custodial parent or the OAG to file an enforcement case against you to have you be ordered to pay any arrearage. The payment ledger acts as the only evidence that either of those parties would need in that sort of case.
Establishing Paternity of your child
No matter if you are a man or a woman this section is intended for all audiences. Depending on your particular family situation you may not have had paternity legally established for your child when he or she was born. Regardless of the reasons why paternity will need to be established in order for you to pay child support if you are the non-custodial parent of your child.
Paternity’s definition is legal fatherhood. If you are legally determined to be the father of a child that creates certain rights and duties that you have towards that child moving forward. Obviously, there is more to than just the legal bonds between you and your child, but for the purposes of this blog, we will stick to discussing the legal ramifications for establishing paternity of your child.
When two people are married and have a child, the husband is automatically designated as the legal father to the child. There need not be any additional steps taken. This is because there is a legal presumption that since you are married to the mother of the child then you are also the child’s father. At that point as a spouse to the mother, your rights to the child would be equal to those of the mother.
On the other hand, if you are the father of a child and are not married to the mother of the child the law does not automatically designate you as the legal father to your child. You and the child’s mother must establish paternity in order for you to be officially listed as your child’s father.
Establishing paternity is done in one of two ways in Texas:
- By your signing a document known as an Acknowledgment of Paternity
- Getting a court order wherein you are established as the father of your child
More on paternity and child support in tomorrow’s blog post
We will continue our discussion on child support and paternity in tomorrow’s blog post. If you have questions or need clarification on anything we discussed today we hope that you will contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.
A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys may be just what you need in order to have your questions answered and to develop a game plan to move forward with your family law case.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Defining a material and substantial change in a child support modification case
- How to properly calculate child support in Texas
- Is Overtime Pay or Bonus Pay Considered for Texas Child Support?
- Child Support in Texas: What is the most you will have to pay and what are the exceptions to that rule?
- The Dirty Trick of Quitting Your Job to Avoid Child Support During a Texas Divorce
- Can I get child support while my Texas divorce is pending?
- Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
- Can I Sue My Ex for Retroactive or Back Child Support in Texas?
- Child Support and College Tuition in Texas
- Texas Child Support Appeals
- In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
- Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
- Can I get child support and custody of my kids in Texas if we were never married?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child support lawyers in HoustonTX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles child support cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.