Parents can sometimes agree that paying no child support is needed. However, there are reasons why child support is ordered. For example, the State of Texas wants to hold parents accountable for supporting their children, and a parent may not be doing enough of their part if no child support is ordered.
Factor’s a judge might consider when the parents argue no support is needed is comparing the incomes of the parties. If the income is similar it may prove that both parents can equally afford all the child’s expenses and split those costs.
If both parents have 100% faith that the other parent will do their necessary part to support the child a judge may consider no support being ordered. However, there are some factors and problems that can results from this arrangement that most people will not consider. Understanding these can help gain more insight on what arrangement is right for you and your children.
Best Interest of the Child
To begin, parents in a child support case will have to remember that all orders regarding their children will be made with their child’s best interest in mind. This mean that even if parents themselves agree to pay no child support, a judge may think otherwise and order it anyways. This is because there are many factors that are considered when ordering child support. In examples, the financial situation of the parents like one’s ability to make payments and if the parent receiving the support actually needs it; the amount of expenses like medical, health, etc. of the child.
Texas Child Support Guidelines
If parents will be paying child support determining the amount of child support paid will be used by the child support guidelines. This guideline will give you a good prediction of what you can expect to pay, and most states have variations of how much child support will be paid.
These amounts are determined by how many children are subject to the child support lawsuit at hand. Being “subject to the suit” means that the orders they are hoping to put in place will be in regard to these children. In lay terms, this means the actual children for whom the parent will be paying child support for. For example, there are some instances where one parent may have 3 children but only 2 are eligible for child support because one child has reached the age of 18. At the age of 18, or until that child finishes high school, child support stops for that child.
Child support amounts may also be ordered in consideration if the parent has other children from another parent, not subject to the suit, that they are responsible for paying child support for. This means a parent may have children from different parents but still must pay child support to both of those different parents, and a judge will consider that when ordering an amount.
In most the standard guidelines will be applied when considering a child support amount. They are determined by applying a percentage (this percentage depends on how many children you will be paying support for) to the monthly net income of the parent. The monthly net income is the parent’s takeaway pay after all deductions have been made. Deductions can be anything from, federal taxes, social security taxes, Medicare, insurance premiums, etc.
The breakdown for what percentage of your net monthly income is as follows:
Number of Children
40% (at the least) of your net monthly income will be calculated for 4+ children. Now again, these percentages are only the “guidelines” for how much child support the State of Texas believes you should be paying for child support. There are instances, were child support may be ordered at either above or below guideline amounts. Above and below guideline child support will not be discussed in this blog, however, they will be discussed in a subsequent blog pertaining specifically to these matters.
Beginning the Child Support Process
Beginning the child support process does not require that a private attorney be hired. In fact, parents can go directly to the Attorney General’s Office and apply for their services. However, the state of Texas and their attorneys will not represent either parent in the case, because they represent the state only. This also means that parents will not have the right to select what enforcement actions are taken against them, because the Office of The Attorney General will provide all the appropriate services. Afterall their mission is to do what is in the best interest of the children. When referring to enforcements, this means, that the attorney general’s office can act on their own to “enforce” the child support order they provided for the parents if it is not being followed.
If you have TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and in some instances Medicaid, the Attorney General’s Office will automatically provide their child support services for you once your public assistance is certified.
All other parents that are not apart of these programs above must apply for child support services on their own. Surprisingly, there is not fee for applications, and most services are free as well. Custodial parents, or parents who receive child support, that have never received TANF will only have to pay an annual fee of $25 for each year if they are receiving at least $500 in child support. However, if you have more than one child support case you will pay the annual fee on each case.
This process seems fairly easily, doesn’t it? However, things may not always be that simple. The high volume of applications the Child Support Division of the Attorney General’s Office receives from parents is exceptionally high. So much so, that there is never a guaranteed date that child support payments will begin. Many cases will require a full range of services be done, like finding an absent parent, establishing paternity, establishing an order, and enforcing it as well. It may take months, even years for an order to be established and much longer if the other parent is not paying, as they will have to proceed with an enforcement.
Because of this, most parents will go the route of hiring a private family law attorney to assist them with their child support matter. Here the process is much different and can help you reach your goal of establishing child support quickly than going directly through the Attorney General’ office.
How is Child Support Paid?
Most child support payments will be handled through the Attorney General of Texas, more specifically the Texas State Disbursement Unit. The difference between the two is that the Attorney General’s Office is more of a record-holder. They will be keeping track of all payments that have been made for child support and those disbursements. The Texas State Disbursement Unit can best be compared as the bank for the Attorney General’s Office. The SDU (state disbursement unit) handles all payments and disbursements for payments.
So how does the SDU get payments. Generally, most people will have an Income Withholding Order in place. This means that your employer will be put on notice to set aside your required child support payments from the employees checks and that will go to the SDU. However, some people will pay directly to the SDU and there a wide variety of options one can use. For example, there is pay by mail, pay by phone, money orders, etc. For more details about how one can make their child support payments please visit the Attorney General’s website at: https://www2.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/payment-options-and-types.
Informal Child Support
While most people will use the state resources to pay child support like the SDU, there are often parents who will agree to pay child support informally, or directly to the other party. The only down fall with this is that the SDU and Attorney General are there to help keep record of all payments, which cannot be done when child support is paid informally. This can become a problem if one parent claims they are not receiving payments of child support, when in fact they were. Avoiding problems as such, and limiting contact helps ensure that child support payments are made on time and kept record of.
What If Parents Can’t Agree?
If parents cannot agree to paying no child support, or to paying a certain amount of child support then the fallback for child support will always be calculated using the state guidelines. Once again, child support is considered in the best interest of the child because it pays for their necessities (shelter, food, clothing) and can even be budgeted to support any additional expenses like educational or extracurricular.
In summary, having a child support order enforces accountability on the parent ordered to pay. It will ensure that you are receiving the support your child requires. While there may be rare cases where child support is not ordered most courts will shy away from this method because they don’t believe it is in the best interest of the child. Understand the protections being on a child support offers will maybe help give you some clarity about what route you want to take when ensuring your child has the available resources.
If you have remaining questions about child support and would like to meet with a qualified attorney to discuss your options, please call our office to set up a FREE 30-minute consultation with our law office. Thank you for your attention to this blog.