Whether you and your Co-parent are married or not, if you go through a child custody case, child support will be a factor to consider. One parent will pay child support to the other parent, given the legal responsibility in Texas for both parents to support their children financially. Child support details can sometimes be foggy and are frequently lost in translation. You may be getting a lot of information about child support from various sources while at the same time not understanding much of anything about the process. The more people you ask, the more responses and opinions you may receive. This can be a problem given that there are problems with having too little information and too much information about a particular subject.
The entire process is based upon the idea that you and your spouse or Co-parent will be able to negotiate with one another on a specific amount of child support that can be paid. Many people assume that child support must be a subject that is determined after a trial. In their mind, the judge will decide on how much child support has to be paid and the other terms by which child support must be sent from parent to parent. However, the legal system in Texas encourages parents to attend mediation. This allows you and your Co-parent to be able to negotiate a great deal before you ever go to see a judge. Most family court judges Will require that you attend mediation at least one time before both a temporary orders hearing as well as a trial.
The devil is in the details, however. Although you and your Co-parent will be given sufficient time and space to negotiate through this subject, the tricky part is being able to determine the correct amount of child support based upon all the different circumstances in your child’s life. On top of this, you and your spouse or parent have a history together where you are likely ending a year’s long relationship. All the emotions surrounding the end of your relationship may end up spilling over into a determination about child support. Most notably, you and your spouse or Co-parent may end up disagreeing over the amount of correct child support if for no other reason than you both have animosity towards each other for reasons that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
What is child support in a Texas family life case?
We typically think about child support in Texas because it is money that one parent pays to the other parent as the result of a family lock case to help financially support the children that they have together. Usually, the parent that pays the Child Support is the non-custodial parent, and the parent who receives the Child Support is the custodial parent. Given that the custodial parent has possession of the child, more often, child support is intended for the additional income that can help the child make up for the balance of time that the child has more with the custodial parent.
One of the fundamental questions that we receive with some frequency is what child support is supposed to cover. Many people assume an outline provided somewhere that covers what child support covers and what it does not cover. However, you may be surprised to learn that the Texas family code does not specify what child support should come for. This can be a source of frustration for those of you out there who will end up paying child support because you will want to make sure in some way that your money goes to help your children and not help the bottom line of your Co-parent. Everyone has heard horror stories about mothers and fathers who use child support money to purchase expensive items for themselves.
When we talk about child support, we are not talking about your child continuing to live in the manner they have become accustomed to while living in a dual-income household. If your child is used to the best clothes, the most excellent schools, and the fanciest house, they may have to become accustomed to having less than that after a divorce or child custody case. Instead, child support is intended to help meet your child’s primary, minimum needs for things like shelter, education, food, and medical care. Anything above and beyond this is gravy on the biscuit. Child support is not intended to help your children live extravagantly but rather have the basics in life.
So long as your children are not doing without while in possession of your Co-parent, if you end up paying child support, then you need to know that your Co-parent can use the money to pay for pretty much whatever they see fit on behalf of your child. Some of these items may not even be directly for your child. For example, given that your child lives with your Co-parent full time, your Co-parent could, in good faith, use your child support payment to help pay the rent or mortgage on the home where they live.
Bear in mind that the amount that you will likely pay in child support is rarely enough to pay the mortgage on a median or moderately priced house in the Houston area. Real estate and rents have shot up in value and price over the past couple of years. I don’t know that incomes across the province have necessarily caught up to these increases in rental costs and real estate values. As a result, it is not as if your child support would even be enough to pay rent or mortgage on a typical suburban home in the Houston area. This is true, especially if you have only one or two children together with your Co-parent.
Another aspect of this discussion is that your child may have costs that go over and above, but you may have been accustomed to as a child. For example, if you grew up going to public school to play sports through the school, then your parents’ out-of-pocket costs for these kinds of activities may well have been close to zero. Now, think about what your Co-parent likely pays out of their pocket to raise your children in today’s world. Things like private school tuition, daycare, extracurricular activities outside of the school, medical costs, and the list go on and on. These are all day-to-day costs that you missed out on as the non-custodial parent. Child support is intended to help bridge the gap between the price you bear as the non-custodial parent and the cost that your Co-parent acts as the custodial parent. It may take a little bit of self-control to handle all this in mind, but you need to be aware of it.
The Texas child support guidelines contained in the Texas family code are only a minimal standard of support that a family court judge will presume is in your child’s best interests. Nothing is stopping you or your Co-parent from paying more in child support each month ideationally. Nothing says both you and your co-parent cannot both pay child support. However, typically what can happen is if both you and your Co-parent share custody in an even fashion, then the difference in your income may be used to determine an amount of child support that is appropriate for your family to pay.
Most parents pay child support every month. These monthly payments are made because of a wage withholding order where a certain percentage of your income each month will be withheld by your employer and then sent automatically to the office of the attorney general child support division. From there, the attorney general’s office will send the money directly to the bank account of your Co-parent. That way, neither you nor your Co-parent gets directly involved in paying these sums of money. Additionally, a permanent Ledger is kept on the office of the attorney general’s website for both you and your Co-parent to be able to verify how much in child support has been paid, how much is owed, and whether there is a payment plan in effect.
Additionally, temporary child support may be ordered during child custody or divorce. When we talk about retroactive child support, this would mean child support you have been ordered to pay in the past but unable to. When you have passed to child support, you owe your Co-parent that money. On the other hand, if you believe that retroactive child support is due to you, then you need to file an enforcement case to enforce the terms of your child support order. Bear in mind that there are limits based on how far back you can go, so it is in your interest to go ahead and file the enforcement case as soon as possible or to bring this matter to the attention of the office attorney general.
Do you have to pay any support towards your child’s health care expenses?
Medical and dental support is required under Texas law for children to be provided by their parents. In addition to Child Support, you may be responsible for paying if you are the non-custodial parent of your kids. Because child support is such an essential subject in family law cases, we tend to gloss over the details of medical and dental support. However, what you will quickly learn in a child custody or divorce case is that the small pieces can end up having significant impacts on the subject. Therefore, I wanted to take some time and walk you through what medical and dental support means in the context of a Texas family law case.
As I mentioned a moment ago, if you are the parent responsible for paying child support, you will also be required to provide medical and dental coverage for your child. The necessary thing to point out in terms of your responsibility to pay dental or medical insurance for your child is that the insurance needs to be available to you at a reasonable cost. For a Texas family law case, the reasonable cost is defined as the cost of health insurance for all your children so long as it is no more than 9% of your annual resources. Dental insurance can be no more than 1.5% of your yearly resources in terms of costs. Any more than these percentages, and it cannot be said that dental and medical insurance is available to you at a reasonable cost.
Suppose you do not have medical or dental coverage for your child at a reasonable cost. In that case, your Co-parent will be ordered to provide the medical and dental coverage if it is available to them at an affordable price. The same percentage will apply to you if you reimburse your Co-parent for those expenses. This is known as cash medical support and cannot go beyond the 9% and 1.5% of your annual resources. With health insurance costs seemingly rising every single year, you may be in a position where neither you nor your Co-parent has the resources available to you to provide reasonable cost insurance to your child after the family law case concludes.
If this is the situation that you all find yourselves in, then a judge in your case would order your Co-parent to apply for coverage under government medical assistance. In Texas, this is the Medicaid program. In larger metropolitan areas like Houston, there may also be local programs that work in conjunction with this state Medicaid program. You would still be ordered to pay cash medical support to your Co-parent despite your Co-parent receiving the insurance for your kids from the state.
One of the details that frequently gets overlooked in child support or cash medical support situation is what to do with uninsured and uncovered medical and dental expenses. I’m sure you have been in a case where your child has gone to the doctor and had a certain percentage of a doctor’s visit or medical procedure covered by insurance period; however, there may still be a deductible or leftover amount of the system yet to pay for. In this case, you and your Co-parent will be required to decide how much of those uninsured and uncovered medical and dental expenses will be paid by the two of you. Some families choose that the cost should be split between the two of you right down the middle. In other situations, her family determined that it is more equitable to divide those costs into the portion of your income.
After telling you all of this, what you and your Co-parent decide to do is entirely up to you. There is no requirement that you all follow precisely what I have outlined here or what a family court judge would order in a trial period. Instead, the two of you can put your heads together and reach a conclusion that considers your specific once everyday needs and circumstances. For example, you may choose to keep your child on your health insurance while your Co-parent agrees to place your child on their dental plan. It is up to you all, so long as your child is covered by health insurance of some kind.
The bottom line for families like yours is that you need to have a good grasp of what child support is, what it is intended to cover and what responsibilities both you and your co-parent have about caring for your children. Remember that your co-parent owes you nothing to keep you updated on what they are spending the child support on. Child support is not the key to seeing your children, either. For example, if you miss a payment or two, it does not matter the reason why- your co-parent still needs to allow you to see your children despite the missed child support. They can file an enforcement case against you to hold you accountable for your actions.
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 are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and learn how your circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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Other Updated Articles you may be interested in:
- Texas Custody Lawyer on Your Child Support Rights
- 7 Things about Child Support for Non-Custodial Parent
- Four Important Child Support Factors in Texas
- A Look at Texas Child Support Orders
- How is Child Support Calculated in Texas?
- How Can a Failure to Pay Child Support Impact Your Vehicle Registration?
- What happens to child support if a parent dies?
- Can You Withhold Visitation if Your Ex Hasn’t Paid Child Support?
- What Is Medical Support In Texas?
- If you have primary custody (custodial parent), you can still be ordered to pay child support?
- Can Parents Agree to No Child Support in Texas?
- Can you sign your rights away and not pay child support?
- Does Child Support End if My Child Gets a Job?
- The Ultimate Guide to Child Support in Texas: What Every Parent Needs to Know