There are a number of factors in play when it comes to how child support can and should be calculated in your divorce or child custody case. In large part, the amount that you will be on the hook for depends on the amount of time that you are awarded in your final orders. If you have what is known as a Standard Possession Order (SPO) in place, then you are likely to pay an amount of child support that is determined by the Texas Family Code based on your income and number of children for whom you have responsibility. On the other hand, if you have something more akin to “split custody” with your child’s other parent that equation will not be appropriate.
The Standard Possession Order and Guideline Child Support in Texas
The standard procedure in a Texas divorce or child custody case is to name both you and your child’s other parent as joint managing conservators of your child. This means that you both share in the rights and duties associated with raising your child. This does not mean that you share in those rights and duties equally (though in some instances you do) or that you will share equally in your time with your child (though you may). It just means that you both are able to voice your opinion regarding what is in your child’s best interests concerning educational and medical related issues.
What comes with joint conservatorship for the parent who is not named as the one who has the right to determine the primary residence of the children is a Standard Possession Order. A SPO basically would mean that you would have possession and visitation with your children on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of every month as well as one night per week during the school year. Extended periods of possession occur in the summer time and holiday possession alternates on a year to year basis.
Because you would not be in possession of your child as much as their other parent it would follow that you would not pay for as many of the day to day costs of raising your child under this scenario. That is where child support comes in. You would be responsible for paying a standard amount of child support that is based on the guidelines contained in the Texas Family Code. If you are responsible for the support of one child then you would pay 20% of your net monthly income to your child’s other parent in support on a monthly basis. The percentage that you are responsible for paying increases on a per child basis on up to 50% at the most.
Along with the requirement to pay child support you would also be on the hook for providing health and dental insurance for your child. This works out in one of a couple of different ways. You can provide the insurance for your children either through your employer or through a private plan. You can also provide your child’s other parent a reimbursement of any amounts he or she pays towards the insurance in the same ways. The last way in which you can meet this requirement is to pay the government back for providing Medicaid to your children.
What happens when a guideline amount of child support is not appropriate for you and your case?
It happens, such as when split custody occurs in your case, that a guidelines level of child support is not appropriate based on those particular circumstances. If you are splitting possession of your child with your ex-spouse there is less of a need for you to pay her child support when you are in possession of your child just as much as she is. Unfortunately the Texas Family Code does not contain any specific statutes that would allow you to follow them in this case.
If you and your child’s other parent find yourselves in a situation like this you would need to put your heads together to figure out a compromise on this topic. When and if you are able to come to an agreement, you would still need to run the terms of that agreement by a judge before it can be approved and remain a part of your final orders. In the event that you settle upon a modified or revised level of child support in mediation then that is a different story. Given that parents have an overriding right to make decisions that are in the best interests of their child, a judge will likely let you all agree to whatever you want to in mediation (within reason).
Consider a situation where you earn $500 more per month than your ex-spouse and you all share custody of your child. You could decide that in lieu of paying a standard amount of child support you could decide to pay your ex-spouse the difference in your monthly income ($500) in order to even things out. There are usually some issues to work out on the edges of an agreement like this but this usually is how a court would decide the issue if it came to it.
Let’s go over each of these arrangements in more detail.
The amount of child support will be the difference between your and your child’s other parent on a monthly basis
Ultimately you and your child’s other parent know what is best for your child more than a judge. With that said if you can do the math and determine that the amount of money that your child’s other parent needs on a monthly basis to meet the child’s minimum needs is the difference between your incomes (on a monthly basis) it is up to you two to put that belief into writing.
What are the monthly expenses for your child? As your child ages he or she will likely have more expenses than when he or she was a small child or toddler. If you are the primary conservator of your child and believe that you cannot subsist on a less than guidelines level of child support you need to discuss this with your attorney. You may need to argue for a standard possession order for your child’s other parent or insist upon spousal maintenance or contractual alimony to be paid to make up the difference.
Finally, the other tried and true method for determining child support when possession more closely resembles 50/50 rather than a Standard Possession Order is to calculate what you would pay in child support per month and what your ex-spouse would pay in child support per month and to take that difference and determine what a more appropriate level of support would be. This amount of money would seek to equalize the amount of child support being paid by each household. Remember, the costs of daily life are borne equally by parents who share equally in possession in most circumstances.
To read more about this topic please join us tomorrow as we continue to discuss non-guidelines child support as well as the impact that spousal maintenance and alimony can have on the discussion.
Interested in learning more about child support? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Child support is a topic that always has people buzzing with opinions and questions. If you are in a situation where you either expect to be paid or to pay child support then you ought to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. Our office offers free of charge consultations six days a week with a licensed family law attorney. We take great pride in representing the people in our community just like you in a variety of family law cases.