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Is Overtime Pay or Bonus Pay Considered for Texas Child Support?

When it comes to questions about child support in Texas, one of the most common relates to what counts as income. Child support is calculated based on the net monthly income of one parent. Depending upon the number of children that you have a percentage of a parent’s income is paid towards child support. How do parents work towards determining what sources of income count for these calculations?

Those parents who have more standard sources of income such as a “nine to five” job are not going to be overly interested in a topic like this. The reason is that they have straightforward calculations that go into determining their resources. Many of us who work for corporations or large companies draw a consistent salary on a month-to-month basis. It does not take much in the way of basic math to determine what our net monthly income is. If you who have multiple streams of income should pay close attention to the information shared in today’s blog post. We are covering how to determine net resources or income in a Texas child support case. 

Any questions you have about this topic should be addressed to the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys pride themselves on being able to provide a great deal of knowledge to our community here on our blog. Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here today.

Considering child support and its terminology

One of the significant assumptions that some attorneys make in the world of family law is that a client or potential client has a basic amount of knowledge about these subjects. This is unreasonable. It will be like you assuming that I understand everything there is to know about accounting or teaching school. Most of us know quite a bit about our profession but may only have a cursory knowledge of other areas. This rule applies to the law. 

We at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan do not want to make any assumptions about what knowledge you possess. Child support is a complex subject. Therefore, let’s take some time to go over some of the basic terms in Texas child support law. By covering this information now it will allow us to get deeper into the subject matter here in a moment.

Obligor is a term referring to the parent who owes child support. This parent is also sometimes known as the non-custodial parent in the world of Texas child support. Likewise, the obligee is the parent who has the right to receive child support. This parent is also known as the custodial parent in the world of Texas family law. We will refer to the types of parents and the child support case as the custodial and non-custodial parents respectively.

Guideline levels of Texas child support

One of the realities for families going through child support cases in Texas is that there are guideline levels of child support which are outlined in the Texas Family Code. Please note that these are only guidelines. They do not have to be adhered to or followed by a court or by parties like yourselves. However, the state of Texas believes that they are often in the best interests of children. As a result, the legislature has inserted them into the Texas Family Code

The guideline levels of child support are in the best interests of your child. This means that they are highly regarded by family court judges across the state. If you and your co-parent are unable to settle your case on child support then it is likely that the guideline levels of support will be used. These guideline levels of support are intended to take into consideration the needs of your child both now and in the future.

Of course, if you and your child have atypical or unique circumstances to consider then you all should act accordingly. Do not agree to guideline levels of child support, for example, if you have a child with a disability. A disabled child likely needs additional amounts of support each month for medical care. Additionally, that child may even require care beyond his or her 18th birthday. Having an experienced family law attorney available to help you negotiate the subject is critical.

Child support for noncustodial parents who do not work

One of the great misconceptions surrounding child support involves parents who work part-time or not at all. If you are a parent who does not work you may have been told that you have no obligation to pay child support. This is inaccurate. Non-custodial parents who do not work have an amount of child support assessed against them based on an assumption that they would be able to earn at least minimum wage. Therefore, your wages will be presumed to be those of a minimum wage employee working full-time if you are unemployed.

We mention this only because some parents go out of their way to reduce or eliminate their income before a child support case. The motivation here would be to avoid paying child support. Not only is this a short-sighted thing to do but it ultimately could hurt your child. Nonetheless, courts will not allow for this. Ultimately you will be assessed the child support based on minimum wage earnings.

Suspecting that your co-parent is purposefully not working needs to be brought before the court. Any evidence you have of your co-parent having worked previously and suddenly not having an income now is relevant in a family law case. Any documentation or proof of your co-parent’s prior income should be brought before a court. A judge will be very interested and proceedings if your co-parent truly is avoiding work to not pay child support.

Including the correct sources of income when calculating child support

Now that we know the basics of calculating child support, we need to understand better what numbers go into determining the income of a parent and a child support scenario. The net monthly income or resources of the non-custodial parent are what matters here. A general rule of thumb to follow is that all money received by the non-custodial parent counts as gross income. From there certain amounts of money are taken out to arrive at the net monthly income of the non-custodial parent.

Items such as Social Security taxes, union dues or memberships, mandatory retirement contributions, and health insurance are removed to calculate net monthly resources. What you are left with are the net monthly resources that are subject to the child support calculations.

When we talk about gross income, we also mean items like wages, tips, bonuses, and overtime pay. Self-employment income counts in this calculation as does Social Security benefits which are not Supplemental Security Income. If you have money coming into your home then it probably counts as income and resources. Even prize winnings and gifts are relevant here.

Does child support need to cover a certain lifestyle for your child?

Here is a circumstance that some higher-earning families find themselves in during a divorce or child custody scenario. Suppose that your child’s father owns a very successful small business. That small business has allowed you and your family to live an extravagant lifestyle to this point. Now that you all are going through a divorce your friends tell you that your husband needs to pay child support that allows your son to live a certain lifestyle that he has been accustomed to. On some level this makes sense, but you are not sure how it works.

In circumstances where your non-custodial parent earns more than $9200 per month a judge can order and above guidelines level of child support. The higher the income the more likely that an above guidelines level of child support is ordered. This does not mean that it is a given that you will receive an above guidelines amount. For instance, your income is relevant in this discussion as well. If you earn a high salary yourself then it is less likely that an above guideline amount of child support will be ordered.

However, we see in situations involving very high-income earners that it is often that child support is not assessed at guidelines. What you should not assume is that because the non-custodial parent earns a high income an extravagant lifestyle will be afforded to your child and you. The specific circumstances you all find yourselves in are relevant to this discussion.

Travel for long-distance families and child support

One of the factors that a court will be interested in when determining child support is the degree to which travel is necessary for your family. For instance, suppose that you and your child live in Houston, but your child’s father lives in Dallas. It is not as if these two cities are an incredibly long distance from each other relatively speaking. However, to make visitation work monthly they are not next door to one another by any means.

The travel costs associated with making this visitation arrangement work need to be considered in your case. There are two basic ways to arrive at a way to consider these costs in a family law case. The first is to create a separate line item in your case for the payment of child support covering expenses. You all could estimate what the child support expenses will be for travel. From there, negotiate a split of these costs to be paid by you and your spouse. This is an amount that can be paid over and above child support.

Otherwise, negotiate for and above guidelines amount of child support which can be paid monthly. This would allow for that simple payment of child support rather than multiple payments to be made from one parent to the other. The downside of paying child support in this fashion is that it does not account for what happens if these travel amounts vary from month to month.

Travel costs and child support

Depending upon the cost of travel you may end up paying more or less than the appropriate amount of travel expenses in each month. On the other hand, negotiating for a separate amount of money to be paid each month may make more sense because that number can vary and change depending on the circumstances. You can pay that amount to your co-parent directly.

Ensuring child support is paid on time and in full each month

Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that child support is paid on time and in full each month. Even if child support payments are scheduled to go through the office of the attorney general it is not their responsibility that these payments are made. Rather, it is still your responsibility to ensure payments are made in the correct fashion and on time each month., you should be checking the website for the OAG to verify that your payments are getting to your co-parent.

On the flip side, if you are the parent who receives child support then you need to have an open line of communication with your co-parent. If nothing else, having civility and speaking with him or her can go a long way. Remember that it is easier to catch a fly with honey than with vinegar. Many parents only reach up to one another when a problem arises. However, having a civil and cordial relationship with the co-parent matters more. This instills a certain degree of trust in the household that otherwise may not be there. This trust matters when encountering difficulties associated with child support and its payment.

Modifying child support

it is expected that circumstances in your life will change when it comes to you, your children, or your co-parent. It would be unrealistic for things to remain the same when it comes to your daily life or that of your child. Families have several circumstances ongoing simultaneously. It is these ongoing circumstances that often lead to changes that require child support modifications. As these situations arise it pays to have a working relationship with your co-parent. You all can discuss these subjects together and determine if modifications are justified.

Child support modifications occur when there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances involving a party to your case or your child. On top of that, the requested modification needs to be in the best interests of your child. When both things are true simultaneously A modification can be granted by the court.

Additionally, modifications that are requested can also be agreed to through negotiations. An increase or a decrease in the income of the paying parent is a common scenario that leads to a modification. Likewise, if your child has a medical need or other problem arises since the last time you were in court this can also justify a modification. Talk with an experienced Texas family law attorney to determine when a modification suit should be brought in your situation.

Enforcing child support orders

The failure to pay child support is a major problem for families across Texas. When you encounter a circumstance involving the failure to pay child support you need to act. Address the situation with your co-parent directly. Allow him or her to provide you with an explanation as to why child support was not paid. Depending upon the situation displaying patience with him or her is not a bad idea. 

In other circumstances, you may need to file an enforcement petition to address the issue in court. The enforcement petition seeks to hold your co-parent accountable for the failure to pay child support. When you are working through issues regarding child support, proper documentation and organization is essential. Being familiar with the evidentiary requirements of proving an enforcement case is also important.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan has served thousands of Texas families in initial child support, modification, and enforcement cases over the years. We thank you for joining us in today’s blog post and look forward to seeing you back on our blog in the future. Our attorneys share unique and interesting information about the world of Texas child support and other familiar topics daily here on our blog.

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. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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