How is Child Support Calculated?

Child Support in Texas

Child support is financial help from a parent to cover basic needs. Basic needs include food, clothing, and housing. In Texas, a person who pays support is the “obligor.” The obligee is the person entitled to receive child support. The person who the child usually lives with is usually the obligee. The obligee generally incurs most of the living expenses.

So, the obligor is usually the person who the child does not live with on most days. The obligor may have scheduled possession or even no visitation at all.

Child Support Laws in Texas

A common term in Texas child support is “Guidelines.” Guidelines are in Texas law for the courts to calculate the amount of child support owed. Guidlines show what percentage of income you pay for support. Other children not before the court do factor into the amount paid. 

How Long Does Child Support Last?

Child support laws in Texas provide a set of end dates for child support. The court may order either or both parents to support a child until either the child turns 18 or the graduates from high school – which ever occurs later.  Support ends if the child gets married, disabilities are removed, or the child dies.  If the child is found disabled by the court, then the child may receive support indefinitely.

How is Child Support Calculated?

Courts generally apply the guidelines mentioned above when calculating support. Guidelines set a basic minimum amount of support. The court can deviate from guidelines due to outside factors. The Guidelines are “presumed to be reasonable. An order of support conforming to the guidelines is presumed to be in the best interest of the child.”

Courts apply guidelines based on Net Monthly Income. The court applies one of two standards after determining the net income. The first standard applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $9,200.00. The second standard applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is greater than $9,200.00.

If the obligor’s net monthly income is less than $9,200, then the court will look at the number of children subject to the suit and an obligor’s children who are not part of the case. 

Texas child support laws provide the following Guideline calculations: 

If an obligor’s net monthly income is more than $9,200, then they apply the same calculation above to the first $9,200.  If the oblige can prove that the needs of the child warrant more support, the court can order more support.  Needs may include tuition, medical costs, and extra-curricular activities. 

There is a limit on the amount of support that a court orders. The court will limit the amount over guidelines to the proven needs of the child. If the oblige can only prove that the children’s needs are $500 more than minimum, the court will only order an additional $500.

Calculating Monthly Income

In order to compute net monthly income, the court should first calculate gross income. Gross income is your annual income before taxes. Divide annual gross by 12 and you get monthly net resources.

In determining gross income, the court will calculate net resources. Resources include wages and salary and all other income received.

The court deducts taxes, union dues, and health insurance for the child. 

The court is not favorable to the intentionally unemployed or underemployed. 

Deviation from Support Guidelines

The court may determine that Guidelines are unjust or inappropriate and may deviate. Deviation occurs if the evidence shows that deviation is in the best interest of the child. Courts use any number of factors to consider deviation. The Texas Family Code lists the factors.

For example, the court can consider the age and needs of the child. They can look to the ability of the parents to contribute to supporting the child. Other factors are possession and access, child care expenses, and health care expenses of the child.  

Support for an Adult Disabled Child

Some children need substantial care and supervision due to disability and are not capable of self-support.  If the disability occurred before their 18th birthday, support could go on indefinitely.  

Texas child support laws state that a person has standing to sue for the support of a disabled child if they are the parent with physical custody or guardianship of a child under a court order. 

Medical Support

The court must also order either of the parties to provide health insurance to the child. The court will look a many factors in considering who will bear the cost of health insurance for the child.

The court will look to at the cost and quality of health insurance. Courts inquire whether coverage is available at a reasonable cost through one of the parties’ employers or membership in a union.  Maybe coverage is available through another source at a reasonable cost.

Retroactive Support in Texas

If an obligor has not been paying support , the court can order retroactive support.  In determing the amount of retroactivde child support the court must look to the net resources of the obligor during the relavant time period.  They also look to whether the mother had made any attempts to let the father know of his paternity, the father did know, any hardships, and if actual support had been provided. 

Retroactive support can be ordered for the four years preceding the date of the support petition.  The court wil presume that four years of retroactive is in the best interest of the child  

However, the oblige can argue that retroactive support for more than four years is in the best interest of the child. Obligee must show that the obligor “knew or should have known that the obligor was the father of the child.” The second prong is they “sought to avoid the establishment of a support obligation to the child.”

Changing a Support Order (Modification of Parent-Child Relationship)

In order to modify support, a parent must show through evidence that there has been a significant change in circumstance.  A court may consider an adjustment in the case that a parent has lost their job, relocated, or if the custody agreement itself has changed.  

The law in Texas with respect to family and domestic matters can be complicated.  The court system can be difficult to maneuver.  This blog is just scratching the surface and hitting the highlights. Nothing will substitute for a lawyer’s advice.  It is important to consult an attorney in each case before taking any action.

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