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Frequently asked questions regarding child support in Texas

You are reading this blog post tells me that you have questions about child support. I know the way to go out on a limb there, Mr. Lawyer. In all seriousness, the topic of child support gets people's attention no matter if they are the parent who stands to pay or receive child support. I think it has to do with the fact that it involves everyone's favorite topic (money) and every spouse's least favorite person (their ex-spouse). Combine the two, and we have an explosive situation that will lead you to take your free time and devote it to reading blog posts on a family law attorney's website.

With all of that said, today, I would like to devote some time to go through some questions that I feel are particularly relevant when discussing the subject of child support. While I may not be able to answer a question that you have, the following questions are ones that I have been asked so frequently that I feel the need to lay them out for all to see.

If I don't answer your question, please get in touch with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We do not charge you a penny for a consultation, and one of our licensed family law attorneys will be happy to address and answer your questions on this critical topic.

Can my child's other parent and I develop our child support order?

The answer to this question is yes in most situations. A judge has to issue orders that are in the best interests of your child. However, most judges would defer to the judgment of a child's parents when it comes to most subjects, including child support. As long as there is some basis for the agreed-upon child support obligation, a judge is apt to accept it and make it the law in your case. Situations that involve disabled children or children that will require support after age 18 are situations that I can think of that would cause a judge to question a relatively low child support obligation.

If I can't settle the issue of child support outside of court, will a judge order guideline levels of support?

The default answer for a family law attorney is to tell you that if push comes to shove, a judge will issue an order that pretty closely mimics the guidelines levels of support stated in the Texas Family Code. The guideline levels of support begin at 20% of an obligor's net monthly income (the parent who is obligated to pay child support) and then go up as high as 50% of net monthly income. A cap is applied to the first $8,550 of an obligor's net monthly income for calculating child support.

However, it can be ordered if you can present evidence to a judge that your situation merits a higher than guidelines level of support. We've already discussed a situation where your child may have a disability or other condition that requires an above guidelines level of support or even support past the age of 18. It would be unjust for a judge to award a "standard" child support amount in this situation bearing in mind the circumstances.

Finally, if your ex-spouse is a high-income earner and your child's needs justify it, a higher percentage of your ex-spouse's monthly income may be considered when determining an amount of child support to order. Your spouse, the professional football player, will not get away from the child support court, having to pay only an amount of support based on their first $8,550.

How will child support be determined if my ex-spouse and I split custody?

It seems that the term "split custody" must be showing up in the media more and more because I have heard people use that term frequently in the past year. It seems like all the rage for one parent or the other in a divorce will want to share the children equally in terms of time spent with each parent. These are the sort of parents that typically get along very well with one another and encourage the child to have a relationship with each of them.

Some parents have it in their mind that if they are awarded split custody, they will not be responsible for paying child support. The thought is that if time is split pretty much equally between the parents, why should one have to pay any support to the other. Is this actually how the situation plays out?

It can be, at least if you and the other parent earn about the same as far as monthly income is concerned. If this is true, the need for child support is reduced dramatically. In many situations, a judge will run a calculation of what each parent would pay in child support based on their monthly income and then have the parent who earns more pay the difference to the parent who earns less. You typically see this sort of scenario play out when the difference in income is dramatic.

What if I am underemployed or unemployed? Do I still have to pay child support?

If you are the noncustodial parent (i.e., your child does not live with you full time), you will likely be expected to pay child support to the custodial parent. It often happens that a person in your position either is not working a full-time job or is not working at all for whatever reason. Would you still have to pay child support in a situation like this?

Yes. If you are not working, a judge will calculate your monthly child support obligation based on what you would earn working a minimum wage job for forty hours a week. Likewise, if it is determined that you are not earning an income comparable to your potential, a judge could base your support obligation on what you could potentially earn.

Let me say that the above paragraph should not lead you to worry that a judge will say that you should be earning $65,000 when you are" "on" earning $55,000. The analysis does not get that nitty-gritty. More often, when a noncustodial parent has a work history where they have earned substantially more in the past, this sort of analysis occurs.

Help, I'm in jail! Will a judge order me to pay child support?

A noncustodial parent who finds him or herself without an income due to their being in jail or prison when an order is issued will not be ordered to pay child support. However, the main thing to keep in mind is that you must serve a time of at least ninety days for the preceding sentence to apply to you. Keep in mind that once you are out of jail, the custodial parent can file a modification request with the court to have child support ordered now that you are out of jail and can earn an income.

If we didn't answer your particular question, contact us to ask one of our attorneys.

I hope that many of these questions were relevant for you (maybe all of them except for the one about being in jail). However, if I didn't touch on a subject that pertains to you, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. One of our attorneys can sit down with you at no charge and answer your questions in person. While there, we can discuss the services our office can provide you with as a client of ours.

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