When it comes to a child custody or divorce case, one of the most contentious subjects tends to be the amount of child support that one parent becomes obligated to pay the other. It's not as if parents become greedy or callous towards their child's needs during this time. Still, something is grading about having to continue to have a relationship of some kind with a Co-parent after difficult child support, child custody, or divorce case. I get the impression that folks in this position want to put the past behind them and not have much to do with their Co-parent. However, the nature of your relationship with this person is changing over time but will never go away.
While you and that person may no longer be in a relationship or a marriage together, you will continue to work as a pair to raise a child. It may not feel like you in this other person are capable of working as a team, which may be the last thing you want to do for an extended period. However, your child benefits from having a relationship with both parents and benefits when their parents also have a relationship of some sort when it comes to parenting. That relationship will likely be much more businesslike than cordial, but even that is better than having no relationship at all.
If you find yourself in a position where you are either going through a family law case or are steering down a family law case shortly, there are some aspects of this sort of relationship and scenario that you need to be aware of. The last thing you want is to go through the emotional ups and downs of a family law case only to find that you were surprised at the end by a result that ties you and your Co-parent together for much longer than you had anticipated.
Calculating child support in Texas
we have already established that the paying of child support is one of the most significant Barnes that will continue to tie you and your child's other parent together. Even without knowing much about the specifics of child support in Texas, you are likely well aware of what it is and, generally speaking, what it is meant to do. Every once in a while, we even see news stories about parents being ordered to pay large amounts of child support and parents who neglect to pay child support and end up suffering consequences as a result. These are somewhat interesting headlines and stories that grab our attention, but you will most likely not find yourself in a circumstance like this.
For the vast majority of us who would find ourselves in a family law case of some sort, the reality is that child support is calculated in a formulaic manner. This comes as a surprise to many parents who had assumed that child support is determined on a case-by-case basis by the judge. Like many issues in your divorce or child custody case, the judge will have little role in finding the specific child support figure you would be obligated to pay. The role of the judge would be to review the child support order and ensure that it is in the best interest of your child or children.
Rather, child support is calculated by first figuring out your net monthly income. You would take your gross income and subtract out taxes in other items until you arrive at a basic take-home amount per month. This number would allow you to arrive close to the accurate figure for child support purposes. You and your attorney would perform a slightly more detailed analysis of your take-home pay in net monthly income during your case. Still, for our purposes, this provides you with a very close approximation of what you would end up having on the table as far as your net monthly income.
The next part of the calculation is much more straightforward to determine. You would need to count how many children are involved in the current divorce or child custody case. Each child involved in the case would correspond to a particular percentage as contained in the Texas family code of how much of your net monthly income would be paid to your Co-parent and child support each month. One child means that 20% of your net monthly income will go toward child support. From there, you would add 5% of your net monthly income per child up to a maximum of 50% of your net monthly income going towards child support.
From there, simple multiplication would allow you to arrive at the child support figure you would end up being obligated to pay. The mechanics of paying child support typically center around a wage withholding order signed off on by a judge and submitted to your employer. That order would instruct your employer to withhold the sum of child support or payment directly to the Child Support division of the attorney general's office. From there, payment will be made to your Co-parent.
These are the essential pieces of information, in my opinion, when it comes to child support in Texas. It is far from an all-encompassing or comprehensive evaluation of the subject, but I think we hit the high notes, and you should have a more specific understanding of child support now that we have gone through it today. With that said, a logical question for you to ask would be when would your obligation to pay child support come to an end?
When can you expect your child support obligation to end?
Just as your child support order will contain a specific date on which your obligation begins, there will also be an endpoint to your obligation to pay. Once your child becomes an adult, then they would theoretically no longer require assistance financially from you or your Co-parent to survive the period; of course, we have all heard stories or even been a part of circumstances where an adult child has continued to need assistance whether or not they are still in school or is attempting to find their way in the workforce.
In most situations, the obligation to pay child support ends when your child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. This is a pretty big distinction and was the central focus of a family law case that I had early in my career. What ended up happening was that a father stopped paying child support in February when his daughter turned eighteen and didn't think anything of it. His daughter was graduating from high school in May, and at that point, his obligation to pay child support would end under the terms of his final decree of divorce.
However, he had mistakenly believed that the obligation would end at the earlier of the two dates rather than later. Despite occasional reminders from our client, the father failed to make these payments. He would argue that he was paying college costs, repair bills for the child's vehicle, and other day-to-day needs that his daughter would come to him with. Our client would remind him that these were not child support payments and that he would need to fulfill his end of the obligation as far as that was concerned.
Finally, our client hired this office to represent her to enforce the terms of the final decree of divorce. Now, this wasn’t a father who had malice in his heart towards anyone, but he violated the terms of his court orders. Our client provided him an opportunity to rectify the situation without involving the courts, but that did not prove to be productive. As a result, we had to send him a letter notifying him that we would be filing a lawsuit if he did not comply with the terms of the divorce decree.
Eventually, he and his attorney worked with us to develop a payment plan that would work towards his paying down his child support arrearage. The result of the case was not the end of the world for anyone, but it was a nuisance for our client to hire a lawyer and go through some degree of trouble to have a wrong righted. If her co-parent had correctly read and understood the terms of their final decree of divorce, all of this hassle and cost could have been avoided.
So now, as we sit here years later, I bring up this story to you all to help solidify an important point: learn your court orders the first time, or you will learn them a second time, typically after another family law case. Making seemingly small mistakes can end up costing you money, hassle, and, most importantly, time out of your life. Nothing is standing in between you and basic knowledge of your responsibilities beyond just spending time learning about the law and how it applies to you and your child.
How do you get the child support withholding to end?
We touched on how a wage withholding order is a primary way for your child support to be withheld from your paycheck and then paid to your co-parent. This order from a judge goes into some detail about how long the obligation to withhold your income lasts, but it does not specify a specific date on which the obligation ends in most cases. Even if it did, the order does not formally end the withholding of your pay. Rather, you have to take steps to stop the withholding from occurring after your child support obligation ends due to your child aging out.
A formal petition to terminate withholding for child support should be filed with the court that issued the original family court orders. This can be done with the assistance of an attorney or by yourself. The judge in your court will then review your petition and sign an order that you will also need to attach to your petition. Only an order signed by a judge can officially and legally end your obligation to pay child support. It is not sufficient for you to tell your employer to no longer withhold your income anymore.
You will need to schedule a hearing in front of the judge to present your issues to them. This will be an uncontested hearing. This means that your co-parent will not be opposing your petition. You will need to attend a short hearing on the court's uncontested docket. You can contact the court in advance to determine when the uncontested docket is heard and when you need to appear. Once there, it would help to approach the judge when your cause number o or name is called. Be sure to bring paper copies of your petition and order even though you electronically filed them previously.
Once the judge signs your order terminating your responsibility to pay child support, you should have that order mailed from the clerk of the court to your employer. You should always keep a copy of your order in your files in case any discrepancies occur about the subject of child support in the future. As long as your obligation to end support has truly passed and you owe no child support, then the judge will approve your petition without much issue.
Remember that you will need to notify your co-parent that you are filing a petition to terminate your child support obligation. If you file your petition, sign up for a hearing with the judge, and appear before the court but have not provided notification to your co-parent, then your judge will not be able to sign your documents. You must either send them a certified letter (return receipt requested) or talk to them about filling out a waiver of service that will also be provided to the court. Either method would provide sufficient notice for your lawsuit to proceed.
What can you do to prevent problems from occurring regarding child support payments?
As we have already discussed at length in today's blog post, you need to be able to no and understand the charts for orders contained in your final decree of divorce in your suit affecting the parent-child relationship. Without knowing your orders, you are essentially flying blind. As you saw in the example, I provided you with earlier in these blog posts, even well-meaning but ignorant parents can make child support mistakes. Don't let the father in my example be you in the future.
You should also establish a relationship with your Co-parent to the extent that you can do it. This means that you should extend to them a great deal of patience when discussing these topics. If something comes up where you cannot pay your child support or lose a job, it is easier to speak to them directly if you have a pre-existing relationship. Constantly being on bad terms with this person means that you are more likely to find yourself in the courtroom in the future.
Next, you should consider the needs of your child first and foremost. Remember that ultimately the Child Support paid goes towards the benefit of your child even though it is being sent to your Co-parent. If you think about the payments in this way, you will be more likely to tolerate and even see the benefit of paying child support consistently. When he starts to look at it from the perspective of paying your spouse, for instance, $1000 per month until your youngest child turns 18, then you are in for a long haul.
Otherwise, child support is just like any other responsibility that you have regarding your child custody or divorce case. The only difference is that child support is a much more delicate subject because it directly involves paying money for me to another person. However, I like to advise clients to think of the subject in terms of being one part of a much bigger picture that can ultimately improve your relationship with your children and ensure that your children are well taken care of. No matter what you feel about your Co-parent or the courts, I know without a doubt that you love your children more than anything. Child support can be a contentious subject but remember that it is intended to benefit your children should ease you into the process with less concern.
Questions about the material continued 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 computations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video; these consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your circumstances may be influenced by the law associated with divorce or child custody cases.