Have you ever been to child support court before? No, I don’t mean a family law court where a child support case is being heard. Rather, I mean what is referred to in Texas as “IV-D Court”. This is where fathers are brought before judges to have their child support cases heard. Along the way issues like child custody, conservatorship, possession, and access may be heard as well but for the most part these are child support cases first and foremost. Many of these fathers unfortunately have not had an opportunity to build a relationship with the child that they will be paying support for. Or these men simply did not choose to take advantage of the time that they could have had with their children.
In any event, the parties to these cases are not happy to be there. Mothers and fathers alike, the issues associated with paying child support are as old as time. While many fathers would be happy to support their children the issue that these men have is that their income may not be sufficient to both pay child support and meet their own monthly obligations. Child support ultimately amounts to a bill for you to pay each month as a father. Even though this bill is more important than the rest it is still something that can hamper you and your monthly budget. If you are having trouble paying for the essentials in your life already then you can imagine that another bill on top of your already crowded budget will not make life any easier.
Recently, the state of Texas has passed new guidelines for child support purposes regarding low-income non-custodial parents. A non-custodial parent in the context of a child support case is the parent who is responsible for paying child support. On the other hand, the custodial parent is the parent who is responsible for receiving child support. If you as the non-custodial parent have an income and net monthly resources that are less than $1000, then a family court will apply a different schedule to assessing child support against you. 15% of your net resources will be paid towards child support each month if you have one child and that percentage will increase to 35% for five children. If you are responsible for more than five children, then you can expect to pay no less than 35% of your net resources each month towards child support.
What this does is put you in a position where for each additional child you have you can save 5% of your net resources monthly. When you are talking about someone whose net monthly resources are less than $1000 you are talking about a person who is at or below the federal poverty line. Saving 5% here or 5% there can make a big difference and matters a lot in situations like this. If you are a father who earns this level of income and want to be sure that you can take advantage of these reduced amounts of child support, then you need to be able to present evidence to the court showing what your income is. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side can be just what you need to present the best possible case and pay an appropriate amount of child support as a result.
What happens if you have other children not before the court?
This is another common scenario that parents in your position run into. You may have minor children who are not involved in this current court case. In that case you would receive a reduction in the amount of child support that you are obligated to pay. The Texas Family Code in Section 154.129 contains a specific schedule of adjusted guidelines based on the number of children you have before this court and the number of children that you have a duty to support who are not before the court. For example, if you have one child that you have a duty to support who is not presently before the court and have a current case where one child is being considered for child support then you would receive a 2.5% reduction in your child support percentage.
How to establish child support when there is no evidence regarding your income?
It is a difficult scenario to encounter when you are a parent who is trying to establish child support for themselves or for their co-parent but you have no proof of that parent’s income. You may work a cash job where you have simply never had proof of your income. How you do things like file taxes is another matter altogether but for the purposes of our discussion let’s just assume that you have no record of your pay and are otherwise in doubt as to how child support can be calculated if you are not paid by paycheck or through the human resources department at your company.
This can certainly be a disconcerting situation for parents in your position given that you rely upon paper to confirm the amount of child support that you are obligated to pay. If you have one job and work for a typical company, you will receive ample paperwork showing what your income is including a W2 as well as paychecks. However, when you work multiple jobs, are paid in cash, or simply do not have any other proof of your income then you and your co-parent are in a trickier position.
In this type of situation, a court would look at other parts of your life to assess child support. For instance, your assets will be judged as opposed to your income. Assets include tangible things like personal property, your vehicles and anything else of value that you own. Your home residence will also be assessed for the purposes of determining child support. It is not going to be possible for you to avoid paying child support simply because your income is hard to quantify. This is especially true when you have a half million-dollar home that you have owned for many years.
The court will not simply overlook your work situation and view your income in favor of other factors. Your place of employment, the nature of your work and your earnings history all matter in this context. If you work as an investment advisor or perform similar work, it is fairly obvious that you do earn a substantial income and have the ability to pay child support as a result. This doesn’t mean that a court can necessarily presume an income higher than what you earn but if you do not have the ability to show what your income is on a monthly or yearly basis a court can make presumptions based on your employment and your specific job title.
You will also need to be able to present to the court your earnings history over the past several years. This is usually done through presenting your tax returns to the judge so that he or she can get a better idea of just how much income you have earned and what you have paid taxes on. Again, even if you have not paid taxes this is not something that will get you very far as far as helping you avoid paying child support. Additional factors like job skills that you have earned over time as well as your educational background can be viewed in terms of helping a judge assess a proper amount of child support against you. The more job skills you have and the higher your educational level, the more likely that you will be paying a greater amount in child support.
Calculating child support based on the human factors in your case
All of the above information is absolutely true when it comes to calculating child support in Texas. The guidelines set forth in the Texas family code are frequently utilized by courts when determining how child support should be assessed. Additionally, you and your co-parent will need to determine the best way for child support to be calculated in your particular situation. This means considering the specific circumstances that you are facing and then making best interest determinations based on those specific circumstances. If you have not done so already it is time to start thinking about how your life and that of your children should factor into the amount of child support that ought to be paid in your specific case.
When we go through the different issues regarding child support with clients at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan we are usually looking at the needs of your children first and foremost. This is not to say that the needs of your coparent or you are not important. However, a court makes decisions based on the best interests of your children and so that is where you need to begin your analysis, as well. In many situations, you are specific circumstances will not require much, if any deviation from the standard guidelines that we have discussed so far in today’s blog post. However, we are going to walk through some of the issues in your life that may result in the guideline amounts of child support not working well for your family.
In many circumstances this means looking at your life from the perspective of the health and physical well-being of your children. If one of your children has a chronic health need then that changes the calculus as far as how child support will be calculated in your case. You would not necessarily want to agree to a standard amount of child support no matter if you are the parent who pays child support or if you are the parent who receives child support. Let’s walk through how a guideline level of child support would not work well for your family if your child has a special medical need.
To begin with, if you are the parent who is responsible for paying child support than your initial reaction may be that paying less in support is better for you. Obviously, you want to do what is right for your child but at the same time you may be under the impression that you are already paying for a significant amount of your child’s day-to-day life and as a result you are not interested in paying any more child support than you absolutely must. If that is the case then you should pay close attention to the details because paying only a standard amount of child support when your child has a chronic medical need can actually come back to hurt you financially.
The reason for this is that your child will frequently run into situations where he or she needs to receive medical care of various sorts. This is not something that should come as any surprise to you but rather is something that has been proven over the course of time. As such, when you know that these sort of costs are coming down the road you have the ability to prepare for them. Part of that preparation means having a budget where you can set aside money to pay for these costs. Medication, surgeries, and general treatment can all be predicted to a certain extent. Now that you have gone through a family law case child support is part of that calculation and part of the necessary planning that you and your family need to account for moving forward.
When you do not account properly for medical needs in child support situations you are asking for these costs to be debated between you and your co-parent on a regular basis in the future. Your coparent will certainly notice that the child support agreed to in your case is insufficient for the needs of your child. This means that he or she will likely attempt to resolve that by constantly negotiating with you over the costs of that care and how you can better supplement your child support that you are currently paying. When you should be focused on the care of your child you will be haggling with your coparent over costs and money.
Instead, you can properly assess the needs of your family by looking at the predictable costs associated with caring for your child and then building those into the amount of child support that you pay. It does not need to be a complex or time-consuming method that you choose to implement. Rather, you can perform basic math and then build into that some degree of wiggle room if the costs of caring for your child’s condition increase over time. This is not only a smart thing to do from a financial perspective, but it also makes a great deal of sense from the perspective of your family dynamics.
If you have not done so already now would be a great time for you to begin talking to your coparent about how he or she views the subject of child support. No matter who will be paying child support or who will be receiving child support, you can better the life of your child by communicating well with your co-parent. Even if the two of you are going through a divorce, remember that you still have a child together and your relationship with one another cannot come to an end just because your marriage is ending. If anything, the relationship that you are taking on as co-parents is even more complex than your marriage.
Having an experienced family law attorney by your side throughout the process of determining child support is also important. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are skilled at considering both the law as well as your specific situation to help you arrive at an amount of child support that is fair. Our attorneys seek to put clients first and focus intensely on your interests. We listen to our clients and strive to understand what matters most to you.
We hope that today’s blog post was informational and entertaining. If you have questions about what you have read or are curious to learn how to pursue a child support case in Texas then we invite you to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. In one of these consultations, we can discuss with you how you could best approach your child support case and maximize the opportunity to better the lives of your children. We know that you have a lot going on in your life and have questions that require answers. Our attorneys aim to be as efficient, knowledgeable and professional as possible in these consultations no matter your situation.
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 a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.