Overview of Child Support

Getting into emotional topics in the world of family law is not uncommon. So much of the subject matter related to this area of the law is enough to get parents like yourselves motivated for any number of outcomes. Certainly, being able to manage your emotions and focus on tangible goals is critical to your success. Child support is an incredibly important topic that has many moving pieces associated with it. Understanding how child support is calculated, how it’s paid, and everything in between is critical to the success and well-being of your child. However, simply understanding how child support fits within your case is also crucial. 

What is child support?

Child support is financial support paid by one parent on behalf of their child to another parent because of a family law case.  This financial support is always in the form of money paid from parent to parent. Informal child support may be paid between parents before a child custody or divorce case. However, once you go to court these payments will become “official” child support payments once an order is set up which mandates the payment of money from one parent to another.

Who pays child support?

In terms of child support, parents like yourself are classified as either custodial or noncustodial parents. A custodial parent has primary custody of your child. This parent does not pay child support. However, the non-custodial parent will pay child support by only having visitation rights concerning a child. Be aware that paying child support is a huge responsibility and is not likely to be something that changes anytime soon. 

Who receives child support?

A custodial parent receives child support payments from the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent, like yourself, has physical custody and daily responsibilities that a noncustodial parent does not. As a result, you can expect that the child support payments that you receive are going to be used to pay for essential costs associated with raising your child. The non-custodial parent is not entitled to an accounting of the child support paid to you, however. Typically, child support is paid on the first of each month. 

Where is child support paid?

If you are used to having checks or cash handed to you by the noncustodial parent of your child, then that is something that you should begin to move away from mentally. These are known as informal child support payments in the world of Texas family law. Only formal child support payments made through the Office of the Attorney General-Child Support Division count towards the official child support obligations of a non-custodial parent. The physical location of where child support is paid is not so important as is the nature of the payments flowing through the OAG rather than from parent to parent. 

Is paying child support through the OAG a good thing or a bad thing?

This is an opinion question, but while we’re here it is important to note that you can feel any way you want to if you remember to pay your child support if that is your end of the bargain. Remember that paying child support through the Office of the Attorney General means that an official ledger of payments is maintained so that you and your co-parent do not have to do so yourselves. This is one less responsibility for the two of you to keep up with. Your co-parent cannot change the amount that she expects to receive based on the month or circumstances. You can pay a consistent amount month over month. 

Can you pay child support even before you have a court order?

Yes. At that time, it would be known as involuntary child support that you would be paying. Essentially, you and your co-parent could agree on some amount of money, supplies, diapers, etc. that could be paid to help your child. This is optional, to be clear. You do not have to pay any amount of child support to your co-parent before you are ordered to do so by a court. Yes, you must support your child materially. However, that does not mean that you must pay your co-parent a specific amount of child support. Any support you do pay is informal and is not something that you would be “credited” for. 

How is child support calculated?

Child support can be calculated based on whatever factors, metrics and circumstances are relevant to your case. There is no set method for calculating child support in a Texas family law case. However, there is a guideline amount of child support that is outlined in the Texas Family Code. This is the default method for calculating child support that could be used in your case, as well. Most families who go through a child custody or divorce case will end up basing their child support obligation on this guideline level of support. 

However, the best interests of your child matter a great deal when it comes to calculating child support or determining any other issue relevant to your case. The best interest of your child is a legal standard that attempts to gauge what is going to set your child up for success now and in the future. Their current circumstances, future needs, your ability to care for your child, your co-parent’s ability to care for your child, and a host of other factors will be weighed by a court. It is possible that what is in the best interests of your child is not necessarily in your own best interests. 

More on the Guideline levels of calculating child support

Calculating child support based on the guideline levels of support will allow us to examine this issue with a fullness that hopefully imparts a lesson. There are two main parts to this equation: 1) determining the net monthly income of the paying parent and 2) determining how many children are before the court. 

The number of children currently before the court will determine the percentage of the paying parent’s net monthly income that goes toward child support. In some situations, this will be a simple determination. In other cases, you and your co-parent will not only need to factor into the equation the children that you share but also children that your co-parent may have that are outside this case. Children not involved in the current case will cause the overall percentage of income paid towards support to decrease.

When it comes to figuring out a parent’s net monthly income you need to be prepared to perform some research and due diligence. Your co-parent may be satisfied with paying child support based on their salaried job but if he or she earns income from multiple sources then that needs to be considered, as well. Remember this is the age of the “side hustle,” part-time job, and passive income. If your co-parent has multiple sources of income, then this needs to be investigated fully so that you are not missing out on child support. 

We know that people are not always willing to be forthcoming with information about their income and earnings. For that reason, if you ask your co-parent about how much money he or she earns it’s possible that you do not get a straight answer. In a situation like this, you need to have the perspective and advice of an experienced family law attorney to assist you. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to help you hold your co-parent accountable to your child and to you. We will work to ensure that the proper amount of child support is paid in your case.

Can you and your co-parent agree to no child support payments?

This is a commonly asked question in the world of Texas family law. In the end, you may want to know if you and your co-parent can simply agree to no child support payments being made. Your reasons for not wanting child support to be paid can vary from not wanting to deal with your co-parent on this level, a desire to stay on your co-parent’s good side, or simply that you do not think your co-parent makes enough money to bother with setting up with child support. Do any of these reasons negate the need to pay child support?

For starters, no, there are very few child custody cases where child support would not need to be paid. It is expected that child support of some type will be paid in each case that goes before a Texas family court judge. Remember that parents must financially support their children. You have that responsibility whether you go in front of a judge or not. For many families, child support is the only way that a parent will ever contribute financially to a child. This is due to the reality that these parents will never take advantage of the time provided to them to visit with their children.

Your initial thought may be that child support is a connection between you and your co-parent that you just don’t want to construct. You would prefer to keep your co-parent at arm’s length rather than come to rely upon his or her assistance financially. When going through issues related to your child’s daily life it would not be in anyone’s best interests, you may reason, to have child support paid. 

A family court judge would not likely agree with you. The State of Texas wants both you and your co-parent to be invested in the day-to-day activities of your child. Even if your co-parent does not see your child every day, the payment of child support is a way for him or her to have a tangible connection to what is going on in their life. It may not feel like it at the time, but the payment of child support is a part of the relationship that parents and children share because of a family law case. 

Child support can be tailored to your child’s needs

As we talked about a moment ago, there is no one-size-fits-all child support order. Rather, the circumstances of your situation do need to be factored into consideration when determining how much child support should be paid. Let’s consider an example situation to better illustrate this point. You and your co-parent share custody in a split custody arrangement. This means that you and your co-parent see your children on an even basis. This is otherwise known as a ”50/50” custody split. When you and your co-parent split custody there may be less of a need for child support to be paid. 

In this situation, you may not want to calculate child support based on the guideline amounts as outlined in the Texas Family Code. Rather, you may need to take a more creative approach when it comes to calculating child support. An example of a more creative method for calculating child support would be to take your and your co-parent’s difference in yearly income and then calculate child support on that difference. If you earn $40,000 per year and your co-parent earns $50,000 then a percentage of that $10,000 difference could be paid in support. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you and your co-parent could base child support on one of you having sole custody of your child. This may result in a greater than guideline level of support being paid. If your co-parent only sees your child one weekend per month then that would leave you with more on one parenting time. As a result, you would have a greater need for support than in a situation where your co-parent is with your child half the time. You and your co-parent could factor this into the equation when determining child support. 

It is in nobody’s best interests to approach the subject of child support with a cookie-cutter perspective. You cannot assume that working for your uncle, your neighbor, or anyone else will work for you and your family. An attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is uniquely suited to be able to take the specific needs of your family and translate them into positive results for your child. All our experience can be translated into creative problem-solving on behalf of your family. 

Medical needs of your child

Does your child have a special medical need that ought to be considered in your child support case? This could be a physical or mental impairment that requires your child to receive medical attention of some sort. Whether it be surgeries, therapy, infusion therapy, or any other type of care, these are costs that should be considered in your case when calculating child support. 

Fortunately, there are multiple ways for this to be factored into the equation. For one, you can simply add these amounts to the child support that is paid every month. This way could be most effective if those costs are consistent from month to month. If you and your co-parent know that there is a set monthly cost for your child’s medication, then those costs can be assumed into the figure for child support. 

However, there is also medical support that is paid on behalf of your child. This medical support is sometimes paid as health insurance but will need to reflect out-of-pocket costs or costs that are not covered by insurance. Your child will need to be covered by health insurance of some sort after your case. This could be health insurance furnished by you, your co-parent, or through the State of Texas. 

If the State of Texas provides health insurance for your child, then this would be in the form of Medicaid. Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low-income children, mothers, and the elderly. There are means-based tests associated with receiving Medicaid insurance that you can discuss directly with the State of Texas. Essentially, Medicaid exists as a last-ditch effort to provide your child with medical coverage when no other type of insurance is available to him or her. 

If Medicaid is paid in your case, then the parent who pays child support will be responsible for paying the State of Texas for this benefit. An amount of money will be calculated monthly that this parent will need to pay the state for the Medicaid coverage. In addition, there will likely be care that is not covered by health insurance which will need to be considered, as well. These out-of-pocket expenses will need to be attended to in your court orders. 

How you and your co-parent ultimately divide up out-of-pocket medical expenses is up to the two of you. You may choose to divide those costs up based on your income or could just divide the costs 50/50. 

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 to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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