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How Do I Avoid Child Support in Texas?

Many parents pursue a 50/50 split in custody with their co-parent during divorce or child custody proceedings, often motivated by the belief that equal possession time eliminates the need for child support payments. But is this assumption accurate? Moreover, what implications does a 50/50 custody arrangement have on Medicaid eligibility? In today鈥檚 blog post, we鈥檒l delve into these questions to uncover the truth behind the connection between 50/50 custody and child support, as well as its impact on Medicaid.

Whether a 50/50 split in custody means no child support for any parent depends upon many factors. Foremost among those factors are your income and that of your co-parent, how many children are before the court, which parent has the right to determine the primary residence of the kids, and what role both you and your co-parent played in the events that led to your divorce. If you and your co-parent can鈥檛 mediate the child support issue, a family court judge will consider these factors and more.

Challenging the Notion of 50/50 Custody

As people embark on divorce, one common belief they cling to is that 50/50 custody is the ideal arrangement for families. Everybody will be happy if the kids see both parents for an equal amount of time, right? While this may be true for many families, I have seen it be incorrect enough to bring this to your attention today. Even custody splits are tough to manage, tough to maintain, and may not even suit your children all that well. Just because someone else has benefited from a 50/50 custody split doesn鈥檛 mean your child will.

The determination of child support in Texas closely ties to which parent has the right to determine the primary residence of your children. From that right flows every other right, duty, and scheduled time of possession. Here are some of the basics about possession and custody that I think are essential for you to understand before we even begin to discuss child support itself.

Custody and child support- what is the relationship between the two?

When it comes to child custody the most important tidbit of information that I can share with you is that there is no such thing in the Texas Family Code as custody. In the legal code, what is commonly referred to as custody is termed conservatorship. Custody is such a well-known word that judges and attorneys have taken to using it almost as a catch-all phrase. Custody encompasses issues related to possession, access, visitation, child support, and conservatorship rights and duties.聽That is a lot of responsibility for one seven-letter word.

Expect to be named as a joint managing conservator of your children along with your spouse or co-parent. This is the most common designation of parents during a family law case. Joint managing conservators are the same thing as having joint custody. Joint managing conservators have similar rights and duties compared to one another. Probably the most significant difference between parents who would have joint managing conservatorship-type rights and duties is that one parent will have the right to determine the primary residence of children. Not only does the parent with the right to determine the primary residence of the child able to choose where he or she lives but also to enroll the child in school. This is the crown jewel of rights as far as a custody case is concerned.

What is the relation of child support to custody and visitation?

Let鈥檚 examine a bit more closely what the relationship between custody and child support looks like. We can start our examination by looking at the Texas Family Code. In section 153.138 the family code states that the appointment of joint managing conservators does not impair or limit the authority of the Court to order a joint managing conservator to pay child support to another joint managing conservator. This language is a little wonky, but it is important, nonetheless. Let鈥檚 break it down into language that resembles English.

Separating Child Support and Conservatorship

All that bit of language means is that the law in Texas treats the payment of child support as a separate matter from conservatorship. While these subjects are related in terms of being part of a child custody case, it does not necessarily mean that each subject will be linked in a specific way. Your divorce case may end up with different outcomes on these issues than your friend鈥檚 because your circumstances are different. If your case reaches trial, it鈥檚 possible that a judge could issue unexpected orders concerning the subject.聽Family law cases are incredibly fact-specific. You cannot assume that what happened in another case will also happen in yours.

Where there is a standard possession order or even an expanded standard possession order whichever one of you or your spouse who is not the primary conservator will have the responsibility to pay child support. Child support for most people is calculated based on the guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code. The first step is determining your net monthly income, which involves subtracting certain items from your gross income (income from all sources), such as income taxes. The resulting number then serves as the basis for calculating child support.

Child Support Percentage Calculations in Texas

The next part is where the specific circumstances of your case come into play, specifically the number of children that you have before the court. For one child before the court, you will pay 20% of your net monthly income in child support per month. For two children, the percentage increases to 25% of your net monthly income. Child support follows this pattern until it reaches a limit of 50% of your net monthly income.聽A court will hesitate to have you pay more than that. The Texas Family Code says that for six or more children before the court you will pay no less than 40%.

What about 50/50 custody? Where does that come into play?

As mentioned at the beginning of today鈥檚 blog post, 50/50 custody is often regarded as the ideal custody arrangement. I hear from parents with great regularity that their main goal for the custody component to the case is to have a 50/50 split this seems fair in many ways and allows both parents to have sufficient time with the kids. However, there are some things that I would like you to consider before you make up your mind in advance that a 50/50 split in custody is what your children need.

Challenges of Achieving a 50/50 Custody Split in Practice

First, even if you attempt to divide the week up exactly down the middle it is almost impossible for both you and your co-parent to be able to share custody of your children on an exactly 50/50 basis. The reality is that kids get sick. Grown-ups get sick. Kids have activities that are just easier for one parent to handle than the other. Children may become fatigued from constant travel between households, potentially leading to situations where you have the children for longer than stipulated in your divorce decree one week, while your co-parent has them for an extended period the following week.

You and your co-parent will need to collaborate and adapt custody orders based on changing circumstances throughout the year. This is common and inevitable, regardless of the complexity of your custody plan.

Aim for Clarity: The Key to Successful Custody Plans

What is best for custody plans, in my experience, is the order that is clear and easy to understand. Whatever your custody arrangement ends up looking like they do not amount to much if you and your co-parent cannot understand what the orders require you to do. Instead, aim for clear-cut orders where both you and your co-parent understand your schedule and obligations.聽Once you get into the rhythm of parenting under a possession schedule you will find that it is easier for you and your co-parent to adjust where need be.

In cases involving child support and a 50/50 custody split, courts often order the parent with the higher income to pay child support. Consider this hypothetical scenario: you earn $5,000 per month, while your co-parent earns $4,000 per month. Even with an equal custody arrangement, you might still have to pay child support. For instance, if you have two children, the court could order you to pay $250 to your co-parent. This calculation is based on multiplying 25% (the percentage difference in your net monthly income) by the $1,000 income difference.

Equal Custody, Equal Responsibilities

A family court judge may seek to help equate your child鈥檚 living environments in your home and your co-parent鈥檚. The simplest approach would be to assess child support payments from you to your co-parent. Many circumstances may come into play here that could make a difference in this determination, however. You and your co-parent may simply agree that if your incomes are that similar, no child support needs to be paid.聽Dividing their time up equally between you and your co-parent means that both of you bear a substantial burden when it comes to raising your children from a financial perspective.

Ultimately, whether you and your co-parent can settle your case out of court or are forced to go in front of a judge may end up being the most crucial factor in this discussion. If you can successfully settle your case, you have the flexibility to craft child support orders according to your preferences, as long as they don鈥檛 violate the public policy of the state of Texas. However, if you end up in front of a judge to decide, there are no guarantees regarding child support or any other related subject in your case.

Where do you pay child support in Texas?

Now that we鈥檝e established guideline levels of child support, the next logical question to address is where the payments are made. Typically, parents make child support payments through the Office of the Attorney General. The OAG keeps track of all payments made and whether you are current on your child support payments.

After your divorce or child custody case, if you are the parent ordered to pay child support, the court will attach a wage withholding order to the other paperwork. This order requires your employer to withhold a certain percentage of your pay, automatically sending it to the OAG to fulfill your child support obligation.

This may sound intrusive to some people- myself included. It is weird to have the government get in the way of your earned income (more than they already do). However, there are benefits to having your child support paid in this way. First off, you do not have to worry too much about there being mistakes in payment amount or frequency. Think about it as an automatic deposit into a retirement account. If you had to make those deposits manually the chances of you forgetting or making a mistake when depositing money may increase. Automatic payments of child support through the OAG make life easier.

Consistent Child Support: Ensuring Predictability in Financial Responsibilities

Next, there will be no question as to what child support amount you owe each month. I don鈥檛 know your specific circumstances, but I have worked with many parents who have experienced a situation where their co-parent would ask for $1000 one month for child support and then increase it to $1500 the next month. That increase may have been justified- there could have been a medical bill that needed to be paid or something like that. However, it is very difficult to budget for such a large item when it changes significantly from week to week.

There is no question about how much child support you owe when there is a wage withholding order set up. It is out of sight and out of mind. This allows you and your co-parent to have meaningful conversations when you do talk about other subjects that are more pressing and important than child support. Do not underestimate how great the peace of mind can be when you do not have to go back and forth with your co-parent about money at every opportunity.

Keeping Your Wage Withholding Order Updated

It is your responsibility to make sure that the wage withholding order where you are family is current. As job changes become more common, it鈥檚 possible that the employer listed on your wage withholding order may no longer be accurate. In such cases, it鈥檚 important to notify both the Office of the Attorney General and your co-parent about this change in employment status. The Office of the Attorney General can help you draft a new wage withholding order. They can set it up with your new employer, ensuring that your child support payments continue seamlessly.

Having a wage withholding order doesn鈥檛 absolve you of the responsibility to stay current on your child support payments. Create an account on the Office of the Attorney General鈥檚 website. This is to track your payments and ensure you鈥檙e up to date. Don鈥檛 assume everything is taken care of just because there鈥檚 a wage withholding order in place. Rather, take responsibility for your circumstances by staying up to date with everything.

Always remember that child support is intended to benefit your children. Although the payments are made to a co-parent, keep in mind that these payments are crucial for your child鈥檚 well-being. Prioritize your child鈥檚 needs above all else, even if it鈥檚 frustrating to see a portion of your paycheck going to your co-parent.聽However, it is your children who will benefit from this amount. That is something that should make these payments a little bit easier to tolerate.

Conclusion

While the idea of a 50/50 custody arrangement eliminating the need for child support may seem straightforward, the reality is more nuanced. Factors such as each parent鈥檚 income, expenses, and the child鈥檚 needs play a significant role in determining child support obligations, regardless of possession time. Additionally, the relationship between 50/50 custody and Medicaid eligibility depends on various factors, including state regulations and income thresholds. Therefore, it鈥檚 essential for parents to seek legal guidance. They need to fully understand the implications of custody arrangements on both child support and Medicaid. Making informed decisions that prioritize the well-being of their children is crucial.

Questions about the material contained in today鈥檚 blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today鈥檚 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 offer a valuable opportunity for you to delve deeper into Texas family law and understand how your family situation could be affected by a divorce or child custody case.

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