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Child Support Laws in Texas: A Comprehensive Guide

Child support is an essential legal obligation that arises when a couple separates or divorces and one parent becomes the primary caregiver for the children. In Texas, child support laws are designed to ensure both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. The process of divorce and child custody is always one with its downsides, but having capable legal counsel is necessary, which is why the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here and ready to help.

Calculation of Child Support in Texas

The calculation of child support in Texas is based on a set of guidelines that consider the paying parent's income, the number of children involved and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. The guidelines are intended to ensure child support is fair and consistent and the needs of the children are adequately met.

Generally, child support is calculated in Texas based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent's net resources. The net resources are calculated by subtracting certain deductions from the non-custodial parent's gross income; such as federal income tax, state income tax, social security tax, Medicare tax, union dues and the cost of health insurance for the child(ren).

The percentage of the non-custodial parent's net resources that will be paid in child support varies depending on the number of children.

Here's a breakdown of the percentages:

Number of Children

Percentage of Net Resources











6 or more

Not less than the amount for 5 children

For example, the non-custodial parent has a monthly net income of $5,000 and is responsible for one child. Based on the above chart, their child support obligation would be 20% of $5,000 or $1,000 per month. However, the percentage can be adjusted based on other factors, such as the needs of the child, any medical expenses and the cost of childcare.

Who Pays Child Support in Texas?

Under the law in Texas, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children and either parent may be required to pay child support, depending on the case's specific circumstances. Generally, the parent designated as the "primary conservator" of the child is entitled to child support from the other parent. This is typically the parent with primary physical custody of the child, meaning the child primarily lives with them.

Sometimes, the question arises of who pays child support in joint custody. In Texas, child support could still be ordered when parents share joint custody of their child. The court can order one parent to pay child support to the other based on several factors; such as the income and resources of each parent, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, the financial needs of the child and other relevant factors. When parents share joint custody, the court will first calculate each parent's monthly net income, which is the income remaining after taxes and other deductions. The court will then use the Texas Child Support Guidelines to determine the amount of child support owed based on both parents' total combined net income.

Once the amount of child support has been calculated, the court will allocate the responsibility for paying that amount between the parents. This may be done based on the percentage of time each parent has physical custody of the child or on each parent's income and other financial resources. It's important to note even when parents share joint custody, one parent might still be designated as the child's primary conservator for child support purposes. This is the parent with whom the child primarily resides and who has the right to receive child support payments from the other parent.

It is important to note child support payments are intended to cover the child's basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, as well as other expenses related to the child's care, such as healthcare, education and extracurricular activities. The paying parent is generally not required to pay for expenses unrelated to the child's basic needs.

Enforcement of Child Support in Texas

When a parent in Texas refuses to pay court-ordered child support, several legal and enforcement mechanisms can be used to ensure the child receives the support he or she is entitled to. One of the first steps taken is to file a motion for enforcement with the court that issued the child support order. The motion must state the specific violations of the order, such as the failure to pay child support and may request the court hold the non-paying parent in contempt. If the court finds the non-paying parent in contempt, they could be subject to fines, community service or even jail time.

Another option is to seek a wage garnishment order. This would require the non-paying parent's employer to withhold a certain amount of their wages each pay period and send it directly to the child support agency to be applied to the outstanding child support. The child support agency can also take other steps to collect the owed child support, such as intercepting tax refunds, seizing assets or property or suspending drivers or professional licenses.

In cases where the non-paying parent is experiencing a significant change in circumstances, such as a job loss or illness, they may be able to request a modification of the child support order. However, until the court modifies the order, the non-paying parent must still pay the amount specified in the original order.

Modification of Child Support in Texas

In Texas, child support orders can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affect the child's needs or the ability of the parents to provide financial support. A modification can result in an increase or decrease in the amount of child support ordered. Some common reasons that may warrant a change of child support in Texas include:

  • A significant change in the financial situation of one or both parents, such as a job loss, promotion or change in income.

  • A change in the child's needs, such as a medical condition, educational expenses or childcare costs.

  • A change in the custody or visitation schedule of the child or children.

To begin the process of modifying child support in Texas, either parent can file a petition with the court that issued the original child support order. The petition should explain the reasons for the requested modification and provide evidence to support the claim of a substantial change in circumstances.

Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing to consider the request for modification. Both parents can present evidence and testimony regarding their financial situation and the child's needs. The court will consider several factors when determining whether to grant a modification, including the income and resources of each parent, the child's needs and the child's best interests. Any child support modification will only apply to future payments. Past-due amounts owed under the original child support order cannot be modified retroactively. If the court grants a child support modification, the new order will be issued and become effective immediately. It is essential to follow the new order to avoid legal consequences for non-compliance.

Child support is an essential legal obligation that arises when a couple separates or divorces and it is intended to ensure both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children.

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Child Support FAQs

Child support is a court-ordered payment made by one parent to the other to help cover the costs of raising a child. It is intended to ensure that both parents are contributing to the financial support of their child.

In most cases, the non-custodial parent (the parent who does not have primary custody of the child) is responsible for paying child support. However, in some cases, both parents may be ordered to contribute to the child's financial support.

Child support is calculated based on several factors, including the income of both parents, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Each state has its own formula for calculating child support.

If child support payments are not made, the custodial parent may seek enforcement through the court system. This can include wage garnishment, seizure of assets, and even jail time for the non-paying parent.

Yes, child support can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or custody arrangements. The process for modifying child support varies by state.

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