It’s no secret that a divorce can put immense strain on not only the couple involved, but also on others around them. While the overall process of divorce is stressful, trying to navigate the complex laws surrounding child custody and child support can put added pressure on those in already strained relationships who often don’t fully understand them. Taking the time to review our explanation of Texas child support laws can help parents better understand what their rights and obligations are so they can feel more secure during and after a relationship ends.
Child support refers to regular payments that go towards the needs of the child or children following a divorce. Child support serves to protect children and ensure families do not have to rely on government assistance or government-run programs in order to support the child or children involved. Typically, the non-custodial parent makes regular – usually monthly or sometimes bi-weekly – financial payments to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child. Depending on the situation, the custodial parent may have to pay child support.
Each state sets its own child support guidelines for calculating the amounts owed for child support payments. Generally, states will review how many children are involved, how much money a child requires for their basic needs, the kind of support each child requires, how much the parents earn, and how much time the child spends with each parent. In most cases, child support ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school; however, depending on the circumstances, child support may still be necessary.
Texas Child Support Guidelines
Texas Family Code Section 154 outlines how Texas state law calculates child support. The child support guidelines detail that amounts paid are based off of a percentage of the monthly net resources as well as the number of children who will need support. The percentage is then multiplied by the non-custodial parent’s monthly net resources in order to determine the child support amount owed. For instance, if one child is in need of child support payments, then child support is calculated at 20% of net resources, two children is calculated to 25%, three 30%, and so on; if six or more children are involved, the amount cannot be less than the amount for five children.
In order to determine a parent’s monthly net resources, the court will review their gross income and any other income they receive. This additional income could include retirement payments, social security, unemployment, pension, severance pay, as well as any earnings coming from investments, such as interest and dividend payments. Following this, the court will remove state and federal income taxes and the child’s health insurance costs.
While the court may move forward with a non-standard child support amount, many factors are needed to support deviation. This includes pre-existing disabilities or ailments the child may have which would require additional support for the benefit of the child.
It’s important to note that monthly support payments will change as each child involved becomes ineligible by turning 18 or graduating high school. Once this occurs, the non-custodial parent can update the amount they owe based on the number of remaining eligible children. Additionally, courts can order a parent to pay ‘retroactive’ child support (also known as arrears) in the event a parent failed to support a child or children as obligated in the past.
In certain instances, parents agree to equal parenting time, meaning neither has custodial conservatorship over the child or children. In these cases, the parents can also agree to a child support structure that best works for them and the child, based on the approval of a judge.
Once a judge awards 50/50 possession, child support calculations can become more complex and can include the following types of arrangements:
- A judge may not order any regular child support payments if both parents have similar incomes.
- A judge may order each parent to pay for standard expenses during their possession time including food, housing, etc. and to split the child’s other expense like education and activities evenly.
- A judge may calculate what each parent would pay if he or she were deemed to be the custodial parent, then order the parent with the higher income to pay the difference to the parent with the lower income.
Medical and Dental Support
Typically, the non-custodial parent paying child support is also required to provide the child with medical and dental insurance offered by their employer. If this isn’t a possibility, then the parent receiving child support can be ordered to obtain coverage through their employer with the other parent then reimbursing the costs– up to 9% of their annual income for medical insurance and up to 1.5% for dental.
In the event neither parent can provide insurance or if Medicaid covers the child, the court can order the non-custodial parent paying child support to give a set dollar amount for healthcare to the custodial parent on a monthly basis. In most cases, each parent pays half of medical and dental costs not covered by insurance. In the event the parents have drastically different incomes, the judge can order an alternate solution. Parents can also come to their own agreement as to insurance and out-of-pocket expenses, but it’s subject to the approval of the court.
Brazoria County Child Support Attorneys
Determining child support in Texas can quickly become a complex process for all involved. Because of this, it’s important to have the knowledge and insight of an experienced child support attorney. At Terry & Roberts, we know the importance of securing your child’s future by assuring all child support obligations are met. If you need assistance calculating child support, if you are being sued for unpaid child support, or if you need to enforce a child support order, we can help. Contact us today for more information.