In my years as a family law attorney in Texas, there are few subjects that draw people's ire quite like child support. Seemingly no matter what kind of situation you or your spouse are in financially, it happens without exception that nobody is satisfied with how child support is settled in a divorce or child custody case.
The laws regarding child support are fairly straightforward- which is the ironic part. We will see shortly that child support in Texas is merely a function of the net income of the payor parent multiplied by a percentage that is based on how many children are involved in your case. The devil is in the details as it is in most subjects, however. Today's blog on the ones to follow will try to flesh out those details so that you can better understand them as you continue in your family law case journey.
Explaining child support starts out simple (in Texas)
Compared to many other states in the Union, Texas has a fairly straightforward means by which child support is calculated as we had discussed briefly in the opening section of today’s blog post. To calculate the child support that would be paid in your case, all you have to do is take the number of children who are born of your relationship with the other parent and determine what percentage of net monthly income is applicable. One child is 20% of net monthly income, two children are 25% of net monthly income and so on up to at most 40% of a person’s net monthly income being allocated for child support.
Net resources are basically take-home pay. A court can file an order on the receiving parent’s behalf in order to order that employer to withhold the wages of the parent who pays the child support in order to make sure it is paid each month. While this may strike some of you reading this as extreme it is actually a good thing overall for parents who are involved in a family law case. For the parent who is set to receive child support, it ensures that the child support is received in full and on time. If it is not, an accurate record is maintained in order so that an enforcement case may be filed to bring these violations to a judge's attention.
The parent who typically dislikes the wage withholding order the most is obviously the parent who is on the hook for paying child support. Many parents feel like it is childish to have this hanging over their head as if he or she is not responsible enough to take care of their own responsibilities. Keep in mind, I will often tell parents, that while the wage withholding order does remove your autonomy over the situation a tad, it overall removes doubt for you as well. Consider that by paying under a wage withholding order, your payments go through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). Just like for the parent who receives the support payments, you have an accurate record of having paid to fall back on. There is little “he said, she said” involved.
These are the relatively simple and easy to learn facts of child support in Texas. Now that we have covered them, let’s get into a topic that is a little more sophisticated.
The amount of money that the guidelines apply towards for a parent paying child support
Let’s approach this section as if you are the parent who will be paying child support in your child custody or divorce case. All of what I discussed with you in the section prior to this one involves a parent who earns $8,550 or less per month on a net monthly basis. Most households in the Houston area have incomes that total roughly $60,000 so suffice it to say that most everyone reading this blog post have monthly income totals that do not approach this number.
The next logical question for you to ask is what happens if your income exceeds $8,550 a month. For high-income earners a different set of rules applies. What will also apply is the income of your child's other parent if in your divorce is one that is considered to be a high asset split up. In those cases the income of your child’s other parent, the one with whom your child will be residing with primarily.
Defining the words that we use in the context of child support in Texas
As a discussion on any other subject, words are important and their meaning needs to be well defined in order to engage in an intelligent discussion. Parent 1 and Parent 2 are not the correct means by which we describe parents in a child support case in Texas so let’s start this section by telling you who you are and who your spouse is.
If you are the parent with whom your child resides with primarily, you are known as the custodial parent. You are the parent to whom child support is owed and paid. On the other hand, if you are the parent who has visitation rights to your child, you are known in child support terminology as the non-custodial parent. You have the right and obligation to pay support to the custodial parent for the benefit of your children.
What does a court use to determine your obligation to pay child support
It is easier to write about the subject of child support from the perspective of the non-custodial parent, in my opinion. With that said, let’s examine what a court is legally able to consider when it comes to establishing an amount of monthly child support that you need to pay your child’s other parent after your family law case is over.
The Texas Family Code has the answer to this question readily available. For the most part, a court is able to focus on three things when assessing child support questions. The first is your net resources- your take-home pay, basically. Next is the number of kids you have that are involved in this present legal case. The third factor that is looked at is how many kids you are responsible for who is not before the court. As in- if you have other children to whom you care for or pay child support towards that is relevant to the determination of how much child support you should be paying.
Other factors that are relevant but not as common in assessing a child support obligation
Right off the bat, we can mention again that if your net monthly resources exceed $8,550 it is likely that a different set of criteria will be applied to your case when determining a child support obligation. Since those cases are few and far between compared to most people's I will save a discussion on that until a later date. For now, it is enough for you to know that if this applies to you there will be time spent later on discussing this subject.
Overall, when it comes to most people and most children, a level of child support based on the guidelines set forth in Texas Family Code is presumed to be in the best interest of your child. That is why the vast majority of Texas divorce and child custody cases tend to have child support orders that mirror exactly what the Code sets forth. After all: math is math and there is no way to escape this for the most part. A court can move away from a guidelines award of child support but the rationale for doing so must be stated in your final orders.
Next, it is commonly misunderstood that your new spouse’s income is not considered when calculating how much child support you will be obligated to pay after a divorce or custody case. A lot of people will come into our office for a free of charge consultation with the mistaken impression that because their ex-spouse has recently gotten married to a successful, professional person that the new spouse’s income is fair game to tap in order to get an increase in child support payments. This scenario is played out more in a modification setting, not in an initial case where child support is determined.
This is not true. Your new spouse’s income is not relevant to the discussion of assessing a proper child support obligation in relation to your kids. By the same token, you cannot subtract your new spouse’s needs from your net monthly income in order to decrease the child support that you have to pay.
Finally, be aware that if you purposefully lose your job, step down in your career to a job that pays you less or is intentionally unemployed in order to avoid paying child support a court can make a determination that your actions have led to this decrease or elimination in income. This is called purposeful underemployment or unemployment. Ultimately your actions are harming your children and courts often times enact strict penalties for this sort of behavior.
Breaking down the big factors that relate to child support in Texas
Without any further delay I would like to discuss the main, three factors that are the driving forces when it comes to determining what your child support obligation will be in a Texas divorce or child custody case.
Net Resources is more than just your income minus taxes. Expenses are taken out of your resources but there are multiple sources of income that are evaluated when it comes to tallying up your gross resources available to you prior to expenses coming into play. Salaries, tips, commissions, wages, and overtime pay make up the majority of network resources for most people that are reading this blog post. Interest, capital gains and dividends on investments count as well. Even if you are not working at the time of your child support assessment is done, you can rest assured that if you are receiving worker's compensation or disability benefits (long-term disability or Social Security) those will count as sources of income for our purposes.
Most taxes, health insurance and union dues are pulled out of your resources for the purposes of determining child support in Texas.
Next, your court will determine a percentage of your net monthly resources that needs to be paid in child support based on how many children you have before the court. The Texas Family Code has a handy chart that is utilized in order to determine the percentage of resources assessed towards child support based on those children. At most 40% of your net monthly resources can be paid towards child support on a monthly basis. That begins to occur when your children total 5 or more. One child is 20% of your net monthly income.
Finally, if you have children who you are also responsible who are not included in your child custody or divorce case then those children will act as a credit towards the amount of child support that you actually have to pay. I don’t have the space to put the chart into this blog post but you can search the Texas Family Code and find the exact chart without much effort.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Texas Child Support Enforcement
- Can my Texas Driver's License Be Suspended for Not paying Child Support?
- What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Texas Child Support Appeals
- In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
- Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
- Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
- Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
- How to get above guideline child support.
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood Child Support Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with ar Kingwood, TX Child SupportLawyer right away to protect your rights.
A child support lawyer in Kingwood TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.