Few issues in a child custody or divorce case are as contentious as child support. When it comes to money exchanging hands between parents due to a court order, you can probably see why this is. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of paying child support to a Co-parent with whom they have disagreements on a fundamental level about how to raise their child. Even though the money is extensively designed to pay for necessary items for children like clothing, housing, and food, many still consider it to be adding insult to injury. Child support is an unpleasant topic to discuss; it is 1 where most people involved do not feel completely content at the end of a case.
If you are the parent who will be receiving child support, then you may end up feeling like your Co-parent still does not contribute their fair share to the raising of your child. Simply by being with your child more than the other parent, you shoulder a greater burden as far as the day they cost of raising them. Even though you likely understand where child support calculations come from, it still does not make it any easier 2 deal with when costs associated with raising a child seemed to increase with greater in greater regularity.
By the same token, if you are the parent who is ordered to pay child support, you may understand the need for your child to receive support better likely doesn't feel very good for you to have to pay the money directly to your Co-parent. I've had more than one client ask me if there are alternative ways to pay child support that does not involve having the money go through an ex-spouse or Co-parent. I have also had more than one client ask me if there's a way to track how the money is spent once it gets into the hands of the Co-parent. The reality is that these payments must be made to your Co-parent through the attorney general's office. Once the money is in their hands, there is no legal mechanism to track how the money is spent.
Why is child support ordered in family law cases?
Let's start with the basics. Child support is thought to be a way for a noncustodial parent to contribute financially to the well-being of their child even when the child is not in their possession. When you think about it, a noncustodial parent is only in possession of children for a relatively small percentage of most months of the year. This is because the custodial parent is more typically in possession of the child during the school year. As a result, the custodial parent is more in charge of the day-to-day expenses and financial responsibilities that a child has. Child support is intended to address this reality and cause the noncustodial parent to bear some responsibility for the cost their child incurs even when they are not with them.
Among other reasons, This is why the subject of who will become the primary conservator of your children is such a debated topic in many divorces. The primary conservator of a child receives child support payments while the possessory Conservatory pays child support. If you are against paying child support and believe that it is in your child's best interest for you to be their primary conservator, then this may become a sticking point in your divorce or child custody case. One of the most common reasons a divorce or child custody case cannot be settled in time before a trial is disagreements on this subject. The desire to be named the primary conservator of your children is an important discussion point for your case.
Medical support as a tandem with child support
A subject that is connected to the payment of child support is health insurance and medical support. In the past year, no subject has been more on the minds of most Americans than medical care and our health in general. When you consider how important it is to ensure that your child can go to the doctor and care for themselves from a health perspective, then the ability to provide health insurance is surely at the top of your list of priorities in your divorce or divorce child custody case. Final orders in divorce and child custody cases include sections devoted to the payment of health insurance.
There are a few different ways for medical support to be paid and provided in a family law case. First, we can see that the nonprimary conservator can pay medical support through their employer. For instance, if you have a health insurance plan through your employer and your children have already been on that plan for some time. It would make sense to continue that coverage unless your spouse or Co-parent can provide similar coverage at a cheaper cost. Or, you may want to add your children to your plan due to changing circumstances due to your divorce.
A second option would be for your spouse or Co-parent to provide health coverage for your children. They could keep your child covered on their health insurance plan and have you pay them to cash medical support to even up the costs. Your Co-parent would provide you with a statement showing the costs of covering your child for health insurance, and then you would be responsible for paying that to them periodically. It is important to have the information available during your divorce or child custody case to compare and contrast the costs of health insurance.
1/3 option is when you nor your Co-parent can provide health insurance to your children under employer-provided plans or through a privately purchased health insurance plan. In that case, you and your Co-parent will be responsible for working with the state of Texas to sign your child up for 4 Medicaid or similar programs offered through your County. The cost of coverage would be paid by you directly to the government periodically.
Out-of-pocket costs or another consideration that you will have to pay when it comes to negotiating child-related expenses in your divorce or child custody case. Not every cost concerning health care for your child will be covered by a health insurance period; as a result, you need to ensure that any out-of-pocket costs related to your child's medical care are taken care of by you and your Co-parent. In negotiations with one another, you all will have to determine how these out-of-pocket expenses will be split between the two of you. Most commonly, they are divided up equally, but if you or your Co-parent has a greater means to pay for them, the net proportion may be slightly different.
Finally, I would pay close attention to your family's actual needs as far as health insurance and support have your children regarding their health in general. For example, your child may have special needs when it comes to their health insurance and coverage. If you know ahead of time that your child has an ongoing medical need, then you all should negotiate on how these sorts of costs will be borne in the future. If your child needs to receive periodic but predictable medical care, then you all should do your best to estimate what those costs will be over as long of a period as possible to determine how to divide them up between the two of you.
Make sure your income is being fairly determined when calculating child support.
Your net monthly income is probably the most important factor when it comes to calculating child support. Therefore, you need to be sure about your net monthly income when the calculation process begins. This is especially true if you have an irregular income or derive your income from multiple sources. Please do not assume that you and your Co-parent are operating with the same knowledge about where your income comes from and what your income even is. It can be a surprise to learn that your spouse has a much different idea about your income versus what you know it to be.
Traditionally, income is calculated based on your wages, salary, and commissions that are earned. In an age of contract employment, gig economies, and the like, you may have income from multiple sources. It is important for you to explore your co-parent's sources of income if you expect to be paid child support by them. Please do not leave any rock unturned when it comes to trying to discover the possible sources of income for your Co-parent. Work with your attorney to develop questions and request for information during the discovery phase so that by the time final orders mediation comes around, you will know what their net monthly income is.
The other side of the equation when calculating child support is determining how many children you have both before this court and not before this court. One child before the core means that 20% of your net monthly income would go towards child support using the guidelines for support as found in the Texas family code. That percentage would increase by 5 for every child you have up until you reach 50% of your net monthly income.
However, a reduction of 2.5% per child not before the court would also be considered in your case. This is a relevant consideration if you have children from a prior relationship or marriage, and those children are not at issue in the current case. This usually is not that big of a deal for people to consider in a divorce or child custody case. Still, it bears mentioning if you were not considering your other children when assessing how much child support you expect to be ordered to pay as a result of a child custody or divorce case.
Overall, the state of Texas will utilize the best interest of the child standard when assessing how much child support is to be paid. Typically, you and your Co-parent are fully capable of negotiating any child support arrangement that does not violate the best interests of the child standard. You all can ignore the guideline levels of support in the Texas family code and create your plan for child support being paid.
This may be especially relevant if your child has ongoing needs or your circumstances demand alternative methods of child support payment given out-of-the-ordinary costs like travel and logistical issues that may be important to your case. If you talk with your family law attorney if you believe your case merits special consideration regarding subjects like these. You may be in line to pay either greater or lesser than the guideline levels of support based on your specific circumstances.
When does the responsibility to pay child support end?
The obligation to pay child support ends when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. You should make sure that your final orders reflect when the obligation to pay ends. One of my first court appearances as a family law attorney was representing a mother who had an issue with her ex-husband when he stopped paying child support in February when his daughter turned 18. He did not fully read the final decree of divorce and see that the obligation for him to stop paying shot support ended in may rather than February.
These are the sort of innocent mistakes regarding child support if all the parties are not clear about their responsibilities. Make no mistake; child support can be continued to be mandatory if your child has a disability or would be in high school longer than the average student. Additionally, if you have your own financial needs and are unable to work because you are caring for a disabled child, then that may be more reason to discuss post-divorce spousal support with your attorney as a possibility in addition to receiving child support for a disabled child.
The importance of representation when it comes to child support
As we have already discussed today, child support can be a highly contentious issue regarding a divorce or child custody case. Although its calculation can be pretty formulaic, the issues surrounding child support are rarely as straightforward. Even though your circumstances are pretty well set by the time your child custody or divorce case begins, that does not mean that the ability to represent yourself well has to be static or set in stone.
Rather, I recommend working with an experienced family law attorney when it comes to discussing issues relating to child support. A family law attorney will be able to help you, no matter if you are the parent who will be paying child support or the parent who will be receiving child support in your divorce or child custody case. Here are some ways that I think hiring an experienced family law attorney could pay big dividends for you whether you are involved in a child custody or divorce case.
If you are paid child support after your family law case, the expectations for how child support will be paid must be outlined clearly in your final decree of divorce or child custody orders. The general rule when enforcing a court order is that if the language is not clear and unambiguous, the order cannot be enforced. Therefore, you do not want to set yourself up for a disaster when it comes to not enforcing borders regarding child support. An experienced family law attorney will help you to be able to draft an order that is clear about what your Co-parent responsibilities are when it comes to child support.
Likewise, having an experienced attorney by your side is important when you are the parent who is expected to pay child support. Yours would not be the first case if an ambitious attorney on the other side attempted to make you obligated to pay more child support than your case merits. As I mentioned earlier, if you have multiple income streams or have recently had a change in your income-earning level, you should work with an experienced attorney to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of. Wanting to make sure your child is supported financially is one thing. Still, it is a completely different matter to be taken advantage of by an opposing party and their attorney.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can be a great assistance for you to learn how your circumstances may be impacted by filing a divorce or child custody case.
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