Whether you are a parent who pays or receives child support, understanding the Texas child support system and its nuances is important to your well-being as an adult and as a parent. Child support means that there is some serious money being exchanged between yourself and your co-parent. Your budget is impacted by these child support payments whether you pay or receive child support. Your budget impacts how you parent your children and how you maintain a household. Being able to understand how child supports factors into your life and that of your child is essential to the stability of your household.
The goal of child support, and why courts order child support in the first place, is to ensure that both you and your co-parent contribute financially to the support of your child. If you are the custodial parent of your child, then you know firsthand the sort of costs that go into raising a child. If you are a noncustodial parent then because you do not pay for most of your child's expenses daily, child support is intended to help level the playing field and help stabilize the home environment for your child. It does not mean that you do not have to pay for items on behalf of your child when he or she is with you, however.
We will soon see that child support can be a straightforward calculation and its payment can also be made simple. However, when it comes to any subject related to the exchange of money between co-parents it is also a subject which can be emotional. For that reason, we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan want to be able to help you manage whatever child support circumstances you have in front of you. It is not easy to walk this journey alone so we would also like you all to know that we are here for you.
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, please give us a call today. We can set up a free-of-charge consultation for you today with one of our experienced child support and family law attorneys. We enjoy the opportunity to meet with people just like you in our community who have questions about family law issues like child support. It is normal to have questions about an important subject like this and we want you to know you have a resource in the community who has your back in all of this.
Child support- what is it, why is it paid and how is it calculated?
I think the subtitle for this section of the blog post says it all. There are three, basic questions that we receive all the time regarding the payment of child support. We are going to tackle each of those questions right off the bat. First, child support is financial support (money) paid from one parent to another in support of a child shared between the two parents. The costs of a child are unique to that child and you and your co-parent can best assess how much support is necessary. However, since both you and your co-parent already spend time with your child and purchase needed items during these periods it is reasonable to question why child support is necessary in the first place.
Child support is paid because both you and your co-parent, while you do contribute to the finances of your child and his support, likely do not do so evenly. For instance, if your co-parent has your child 60 percent of the time and you have your child 40% of the time then it would make sense that you pay for 40% of your child's lifestyle. When you pay child support to your co-parent it is done to allow her to have more income to pay for the added costs she incurs as a result of your child’s daily life.
One factor to consider when determining child support in your situation is the needs of your child. We are going to discuss this in greater detail shortly, but there are specific considerations for each child's well-being who has child support paid for him. What is the "correct" amount of child support for your child may not be the “correct” amount of child support for the kid across the street. For that reason, you and your co-parent need to be intentional about how you determine what is the best amount of child support for your child.
How is child support calculated?
Now that we have gotten into what child support is and how it is calculated we can discuss more in depth how the amount of child support that you pay is calculated. For simplicity’s sake, it is just easier to take this subject from the perspective of the parent who will be paying child support. To begin with, the guideline levels of child support can be found in the Texas Family Code. These are the statutory guidelines that we see codified by the legislature. If you and your co-parent cannot agree to a specific amount of child support, then a family court judge will begin their analysis of this question starting with the guidelines. So, it is worthwhile for you to know what they are and how they could impact your children as a result.
For the child support guidelines, we begin by taking into consideration what your net monthly income is. This is a discussion that could be easier said than done depending upon how you earn a living. If you work an hourly or salaried job, then this can be a not-so-difficult calculation. Your $50,000 annual salary can be reduced by taxes and health insurance. From there, you would take that annual amount and divide it by 12 (months of the year). This is your monthly net income.
Next, we would take the number of children you have before the court and turn that number into a percentage. For example, if you have one child before the court then 20% of your net monthly income would be paid to your co-parent in child support. That percentage increases by 5% until you get to 6 children. No less than 40% of your net monthly income can be paid in child support for six or more children. Typically, there are caps applied to the amount of child support you can be assessed. However, we will also see that there are exceptions to the rules that may impact how much child support will be paid in your case.
For this reason, it is a great idea to have an attorney in your family law case. Child support may look simple at first but when you get down to the nitty-gritty it ends up being just as complicated as any other area of your case. Do not assume that because you have a standard, 9-5 type income child support is going to be a walk in the park for you. What ends up happening in these situations is you take the complexity of this subject for granted and wind up paying more child support than you should. You will figure this out and before you know it you will be bitter towards your co-parent, and this will impact your relationship with her. Or you may end up paying not enough in child support which impacts negatively the quality of life for your child. In any event, taking steps to learn as much as you can about child support is a good idea.
How can child support calculations become more complex than meets the eye?
As we just mentioned, child support at first glance can seem easy to calculate. However, if you work multiple contracts or “1099” jobs then the calculation can be made much trickier. From there, if you work a salaried job but have multiple sources of income then you may need to consider how each of those sources factor into your support calculation. Do you have investment properties that yield income? See what I mean? The more sources of income that you have the more complex this subject becomes. It can be difficult to pull all your income together if you do not have a budget.
A budget, you may be asking yourself. Is this a blog post on family law or personal finance? Well, where the two subjects intersect, I feel the need to mention to you how important having a personal and household budget can be. Having a household budget is the best way you can prepare to take into consideration your household needs as well as your child support obligation. A budget takes time to fine-tune. You cannot expect to be able to accurately budget your household income in one month or even two. However, a budget takes into consideration your income, and your bills and then gives each dollar a job- whether it be paying bills, spending for your child, etc.
Without the household budget, you run into a situation where you may find that your dollars that should be allocated for spending on child support get spent somewhere else entirely. This is a situation that you want to be casual with. Make sure that you know exactly where your money is being spent. Adding into your budget a $1000 per month child support obligation certainly does not make it easier to make ends meet. For that reason, the more detailed and intentional you can be with this budget the better off you and your family will be in the long run. Consider the budget as your first opportunity to determine where you spend your money, what your priorities are, and where you need to shift spending around (if at all) to take into consideration the child support obligation that you now have.
How does it work with multiple children from multiple relationships?
If you are a father who has multiple children with multiple women, then you may be in line for a reduction in your child support. Let’s consider a situation where you have a five-year-old son from a prior relationship and a 6-month-old daughter with a woman you recently stopped dating. She filed a child support case, and she is pursuing child support since you moved out. That six-month-old has no health or medical needs out of the ordinary. In that case, your net monthly income would be calculated, and 20% of your income taken for child support each month.
Here is where the child from a prior relationship can enter the equation. Because you have a child from a prior relationship that you pay child support towards, you would receive a 2.5% credit toward your upcoming child support bill. Instead of paying 20% of your net monthly income towards child support for your daughter, you would likely only need to pay 17.5%. A much more tolerable number, to be sure. Many different factors would need to be weighed before concluding how much child support you would be obligated for. It may even be that you need to consult with an attorney to consider how much to negotiate for in child support considering your prior obligation.
When could you be ordered to pay more than the guideline levels of support for child support?
The guideline level of support for child support is just that- a guide. It does not mean that you will necessarily be ordered to pay that much in support. There are other considerations that a judge can make and weigh when considering how much to order for you to pay in child support. Right off the bat, the medical needs of your child are always going to be a major factor when determining child support. If your child has a chronic medical condition that requires regular and predictable amounts of money to be paid for care each month, then that is something that can impact the amount of child support that you are ordered to pay.
As a parent who has a child with a special need or medical need, you should be as prepared as possible when it comes to presenting a list of costs and why they require an increased amount of child support each month. For example, depending upon the needs of your child you should consider what monthly costs go into their medical care. From there, you can determine what percentage of those medical costs you should account for and what percentage your co-parent should account for. Depending upon your incomes and other factors it may make sense for the two of you to split those costs right down the middle. However, if you make more money than your child's other parent it would be more equitable for you to pay more money in child support.
Is the responsibility to pay child support come to an end?
A reasonable question to ask would be when does your responsibility to pay child support come to an end? For most parents, the answer to this question is that the responsibility of paying child support comes to an end when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school. The latter of these two dates would be the endpoint for your child support obligation. For most parents, this would seem to be a pretty clear-cut distinction, but we have represented clients where this has been a bigger point of confusion than you may have thought otherwise.
Specifically, we represented a client about five years ago who stopped paying money when his daughter turned 18. However, she had just started her senior year of high school and still had many more months of school to go until graduation. Because our client’s ex-husband did not understand the child support order it got to the point where we ended up negotiating before a hearing had to be held where the ex-husband would pay the back child support to our client in installments. This could have been avoided had the excuse and understood the court orders better.
Additionally, if your child suffers a disability of some sort and cannot work then you may be in a position where you and your Co-parent want the Child Support to be extended past your child's 18th birthday. The chances of your child overcoming that disability, prospects for their future as well as the specific nature of your child's disability should all be considered when determining when child support ends. Again, this is an important consideration and one that you should pay close attention to. The difference between making the right and wrong decision could be thousands of dollars as well as putting your child in a questionable position to be able to support themselves once the Child Support obligation comes to an end.
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