At the beginning of a divorce or child custody case, many parents will have a goal of sharing custody with their Co-parent or spouse. Shared custody to most people means a fairly even split, resulting in your child spending half their time with you and half their time with their other parent. This would seem to be a reasonable and fair goal to have, although, in practice, it is complicated to achieve a result where exactly 50% of the child's time is spent with one parent in exactly 50% is spent with the other parent. However, if your goal at the beginning of a child custody or divorce case is for your child to be able to maintain their relationship both with you and with the other parent, then a 50 percent split between the two of you would seem to be the most reasonable way to go.
With so much focus in a divorce or child custody case being placed on the ability for you and your child's other parent to spend as much time with your child as possible, it is understandable that other areas may get lost in the shuffle. Who one of those areas that are of particular importance is child support. Most child custody or divorce cases end up with one parent paying the other child support. The question for you in your spouse is which one of you will pay in which one will receive the Child Support? This question largely depends upon who ends up being named as the primary conservator of your child and on which one of you is in the position the best care for your children on an ongoing basis.
Primary conservators are paid child support in Texas.
If you are named the primary conservator per child in a divorce or child custody case, you need to know that you will have a primary decision-making authority for that child moving forward. First, you will have the authority to make decisions for your child regarding areas of their life like school and medical situations. Your ex-spouse will have the same ability to do so, but the rights that you hold regarding that child will be superior in a few distinct ways. Foremost among those superior rights will be the ability to determine every child's primary residence and receive child support.
By having the right to determine your child's primary residence, you will be able to determine where your child lives full time. Assuming that you designate your residence as your child's primary residence, this means that your child will be spending more time with you throughout the year. This is because most of the year is spent in school, and your child will be living with you at home, haha, during this time. By this fact, most of the time, new children spin in the year will be with you.
Since you will be spending more time with your child than your ex-spouse will, child support will be paid by your ex-spouse to you to make up for an account for you're spending more money on your child theoretically throughout the year. Think about the day-to-day costs of raising a child that you bear compared to those of your ex-spouse. The more time your child spends with you, the more things you are likely to pay for. This is why you will be able to receive child support as the primary conservator child.
How is child support calculated?
Now that we have established which parent is in line to receive child support in which is in line to pay child support in a typical divorce or child custody case, we should next talk about how child support is calculated. Assuming that you are responsible for paying child support, your net monthly income will first be calculated. For the sake of brevity, we can mention that net monthly income is your take-home pay from wages and salaries that you earn. Certain investments and other monies can contribute to your net monthly income, but for the most part, net monthly income is money earned through your job. Certain expenses and taxes are removed from your gross income to determine your net income monthly.
Next, we would look to the Texas family code to determine what portion of your net monthly income would be obligated to child support each month. The Texas family code includes guideline levels of child support based on the number of children you are responsible for. Beginning at 20% of your net monthly income for one child and going all the way up to at most 50% of your net monthly income, The Texas family code has suggested in guideline levels of child support that are to be paid by owing parents. You would take the percentage contained in the Child Support Guidelines and multiply that against your net monthly income. The product of these two numbers is your monthly child support obligation.
Keep in mind that these are only the guidelines as contained in the Texas family code. You are not required to follow these guidelines in your divorce or child custody case. Rather, you and your opposing party may determine another amount of child support for either of you to pay based on your particular circumstances and the needs of your child. However, I can tell you from experience that most people who go through a divorce typically follow the guidelines pretty closely. This removes a lot of the wiggle room and hassle surrounding negotiating for child support and allows people to defer to what The Texas family code contains.
How is child support paid each month?
Beginning at the time temporary orders are entered into, child support becomes owed each month. Considering how the length of a divorce case is fairly short, you may pay your spouse child support directly during the case. Once the case is over with, a wage withholding order would be submitted to your employer, ordering them to set aside a certain sum of your paycheck each month to make sure that child support is paid. This order is signed by a judge and submitted at the time your final decree of divorce is. Once you and the judge have signed the wage withholding order, it will be sent to your human resources department, and your employer will withhold money for child support each month.
The money will be sent through the attorney general of Texas and their child support division for payment. The office of the attorney general is the clearinghouse in record keeper for child support. Their website contains a place where you can check on any balances owed in child support, and you can also check on a history of the payments of child support that have been made. Rather than being responsible for paying your ex-spouse directly, the attorney general allows everyone to be kept honest by having payments go through them.
A key point to make at this stage is that you will not get credit for direct child support payments made to your ex-spouse or Co-parent after your family law case is over. Therefore, it is recommended that you make sure that all child support payments are made in full incorrectly at the beginning of each month. Fortunately, the attorney general makes it pretty easy for you to check on this by verifying on their website, but your child support was processed and paid in full as intended.
The temptation for many spouses in their post-divorce life is to get casual with the payment of child support directly to an ex-spouse rather than through the attorney general's office. If you were to change your job, for example, and not update the court or the attorney general's office, you might be able to get into a situation where this becomes the norm for your family. I would strongly counsel against it, however. Even if it works out for your family short-term basis, you may find that it ends up hurting you in the long term. For example, you may be on good terms with your ex-spouse right now, which may make paying direct child support payments more agreeable.
However, if something were to sour in your relationship, there is no telling that you will get credit for these payments from them. Imagine putting yourself in a situation where you have dutifully made direct child support payments to your ex-spouse for many years but did not get credit through the attorney general's website. If your ex-spouse were to file an enforcement lawsuit against you for not having made child support payments correctly, you might run into a situation where you had to defend yourself in a lawsuit.
It is recommended that you do not put yourself in this position and instead follow the process when it comes to paying child support. Even if it seems like a pain at this time, your future self will thank you for having gone through the trouble. If a wage withholding order does not work for you based on your employment situation, then you should speak with your attorney at the end of your divorce child custody case to determine whether or not an alternative arrangement can be set up that is satisfactory to you and your opposing party.
Is the payment of child support necessary when custody is split 50/50?
This is the million-dollar question as far as we're concerned in today's blog post. The main idea behind having to pay child support is that since you spend less time with your child, you have less skin in the game as far as daily expenses for that child. By paying child support, you are evening up the score between yourself and your Co-parent. a fair question to ask would be whether or not either of you Should have to pay child support if you both see your child consistently in similar proportions. When there is no difference between parenting time, why should either of you pay child support?
There are limited circumstances in which you may not have to pay child support after a divorce or child custody case. This is the general rule applied to your case and the standard by which child support will be determined. Under Texas family law, there is no formula to lower child support percentages from the guideline amount to a lesser amount when you have a 5050 custody split. Unless you agreed to a different amount of child support, the standard guideline amount of child support would likely be applied to your case even if you split custody of your child with your Co-parent.
However, as with many things in life, you have options in this circumstance when it comes to paying child support while splitting custody with your Co-parent. In addition to simply agreeing to pay guideline levels of child support, you can agree to pay child support only on the difference in income earned by you and your Co-parent, or you can take into account any spousal support paid by you to your Co-parent after a divorce one calculating child support.
If you and your Co-parent share parenting time equally, then you may share daily expenses in an equal fashion as well. If this is the case and your incomes are fairly similar, you may be in a position where child support does not have to be paid. On the other hand, if your income is far higher than your ex-spouse's income, then you probably will still have to pay child support even if you split time with one another. If your ex-spouse does not get child support from you, then they will not be able to provide your child with adequate housing, food, and your child may suffer as a result.
Keep in mind that your income levels and time with your child are not the primary considerations of a family court judge if the issue of child support is brought before one. Child support is paid to better the interests of your child. As a result, a judge would decide on child support that is in the best interest of your child and not necessarily in your best interest or that of your ex-spouse. Also, child support under the law in Texas is considered to be a bare minimum that is in your child's best interests to cover their needs. If you were to pay $1000 per month in child support, it might be accurate based on the Texas child support guidelines, but likely does not come close to the actual expenses that your child incurs every month.
Another method that parents employ in custody split situations is that each person will calculate what they would pay to the other in child support and then take the difference. The person who would pay more in child support would pay the other the difference between their two numbers. For example, if you would be obligated to pay $1000 per month in child support to your ex-wife but she would be obligated to pay only $800 per month in child support to you, then you would agree to pay $200 per month as the difference between the two numbers in child support.
Essentially, because you and your Co-parent are both contributing to the payment of your child's expenses in your households, the $200 difference would equalize the amount of child support between your household and theirs and would set you up for a more fair outcome. This can be a tricky way to calculate child support for divorce or child custody cases considering how the needs of a child may fluctuate over time and income may fluctuate over time.
If you and your spouse determine child support figures in mediation, then this determination would supersede any best interests of the child arguments that a judge could present to you. The judge cannot substitute their best interest analysis for you and your spouse as a valid mediated settlement agreement for child support. Child support can be modified in the future but only upon a showing that material and substantial changes occurred in your life, the life of your Co-parent, or in the life of one of your children. Settling on a certain number for child support may be difficult, but oftentimes, it is a better option than going through a contested trial where the costs of going to court are more than the overall child support award.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's 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 can go a long way towards helping you learn more about the world of Texas family law and how our office is best positioned to help you and your family during this stage of your life.