Family Law / Child SupportHow do courts set the amount of child support?
Texas has set forth very specific child support guidelines that govern the amount paid by the non-custodial parent. Child support is calculated by multiplying the paying parent's net income by a percentage that is set in the guidelines.
1 child = multiply the monthly net income by 20%
2 children = multiply the monthly net income by 25%
3 children = multiply the monthly net income by 30%
4 children = multiply the monthly net income by 35%
5 children = multiply the monthly net income by 40%
For 6 or more children, the amount must be at least the same as for five children.
Support calculation for a parent with $2,000 net monthly income and two children:
$2,000 (net monthly income) x .25 (25% for two children) = $500 per month in monthly child support
If a paying parent's net income is greater than $7,500 per month, the child support calculation applies only to the first $7,500; after that, the court may order additional support if the circumstances warrant a higher payment—but the additional amount can be no greater than "the proven needs of the child."
The law says that the child support guidelines are presumed to result in an amount of support that is appropriate and fair. However, a parent who believes that guideline support is too high or too low may ask the court to make an adjustment. There are a number of factors that the judge may consider under Texas Family Code Section 154.123.
A parent who has an obligation to support multiple children living in different households will pay slightly less than the guideline amount for children living in the same household as set forth in Texas Family Code Section 154.128.How long must I pay child support?
A non-custodial parent is required to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs last. A court may order child support for an indefinite period if the child is physically or mentally disabled. Child support may end if the child is not yet 18 and:
- enlists in the military; or
- becomes legally emancipated.
Unless the parties agree, the costs of a college education are born by the party incurring those expenses and will not serve as the basis to continue the child support obligation.
How is child support paid? Every child support order in Texas contains an income withholding order that requires the paying parent's employer withhold the child support amount from the paying parent's paycheck. The withheld amount is sent to the Office of the Attorney General which in turn forwards the funds to the receiving parent. However, self-employed parents or those who work on commission aren't subject to income withholding orders and must pay support directly to the Office of the Attorney General.
Do I still have to pay child support if I am being denied access to my children?
Yes. These are two very separate issues. Failing or refusing to pay court ordered child support because the other party is refusing access/possession will do little more than result in both parties having the right to file an enforcement action against the other party. Either party may be held in contempt of court for refusing to pay child support and/or refusing to produce the child as court ordered. When denied access to the children, the injured party should pursue an enforcement action against the parent at fault rather than terminate support payments.
Am I required to secure a life insurance policy in order to guarantee child support payments in the event of my death?
Many parents receiving support ask the paying parent to purchase a policy for that purpose. The judge will often include a provision in the divorce decree requiring that the obligated parent maintain a life insurance policy for the sum that would cover all child support due until the child or children age out. If there is an existing policy, the courts may require that the person obligated to pay child support be required to maintain the children as beneficiaries as long as the child support order remains in effect.
Can the amount of child support be changed?
A child support order may be modified if possession of the children changes or if there is a dramatic change in income through no fault of the obligated parent. A parent who is unable to pay child support because of losing a job or other financial problems can ask the court to reduce the support order. A parent may request an increase in support if the obligated parent has been promoted, received a raise, or there have been changes in the obligated parent's resources.
Can we reach an agreement to modify child support without having to go to court?
Only a court can increase/decrease the amount of child support. Never rely on the other parent's word that he/she will accept a reduced amount in support. Relying on an agreement that is not reduced to a court order may result in an enforcement and possibly jail time. See "Enforcement/Contempt" for more information on this issue.
What happens if someone doesn't pay child support?
A parent who fails to pay child support will be subject to any of the following methods of collection:
- Wage garnishment
- Collection of lottery winnings
- Seizure of federal income tax refunds
- Suspension or revocation of any driver's licenses, CLD, professional or business licenses, or even fishing licenses
- Suspension of passport
- Found to be in contempt of court orders, which may result in prison time, fines, or both
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