Child support is a critical element of a child custody case in Texas.  In the majority of cases, one party or the other does end up paying child support.  Here are several important factors to consider in determining whether or not you would have to pay child support (or if you would receive it) and, if so, how much that would likely be:

  1. What is the possession schedule?  If Parent A has primary custody and Parent B has a standard possession order or expanded standard possession order, then Parent B will almost universally pay guideline child support.  However, if Parent A and Parent B have a 50/50 schedule, then the issue of child support is not as clear cut.  If they have some other unique possession schedule, we would look at the percentage of time the child has with each parent and go from there.
  2. If there is a 50/50 possession schedule, what are the incomes of the parties?  There is nothing in the Texas Family Code about 50/50 possession or about what to do with child support when the parties have a 50/50 schedule.  However, I see 50/50 possession schedules on a very regular basis.  If Parent A earns a very high income (well over the child support cap of $8,550 per month in net resources) and Parent B earns a very low income or no income, Parent A will likely still pay guideline child support, even with a 50/50 schedule.  If Parent A’s income is not super high but Parent A makes more than Parent B, then we will usually see a child support offset.  That means we would calculate what Parent A would pay under the guidelines, calculate what parent B would pay under the guidelines, and the parent who makes more (Parent A) would pay the difference.   Sometimes with 50/50 schedules, parties will reach agreements on splitting expenses (daycare, extracurricular activities, etc.) instead of having one party pay child support.
  3. What are the child support guidelines?  The Texas Family Code provides guidelines for calculating child support.  To calculate child support, you simply multiple the paying parent’s net monthly resources (up to the cap of $8,550) times the percentage applicable.   The guideline calculations are easy if the paying parent has no other children to support.  Those guidelines are as follows:  1 child (20%), 2 children (25%), 3 children (30%), 4 children (35%), and 5+ children (40%).  If the paying parent has other children to support, there is a chart that shows the various percentages based on the numbers of children.  For example, a parent with one child in the current case and one other child to support would pay 17.5% under the guidelines instead of 20%.
  4. Can we agree to no child support?  That depends on a few factors, such as the possession schedule, the income of the parties, and whether there are extenuating circumstances that would weigh in favor of no child support.  I have seen many parties agree to no child support, but I have also seen a few judges balk at it.

The best way to determine whether or not you would need to pay child support (or whether or not you would receive child support) in any particular case is to speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney.

Child Support

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The Texas Family Code provides guidelines for calculating child support.  The guidelines are followed in the vast majority of cases.   If you are involved in a child support case with the Attorney General, you can be confident that the guidelines will be followed almost 100% of the time.

The guidelines calculate child support based on net income.  This does not necessarily mean the same thing as “take home pay.”  Net income is calculated as gross income minus the correct amount of taxes (which may or may not be the amount withheld from the paycheck), and minus health insurance for the child(ren).  (There are a few other things that can be subtracted but they do not apply to most people.)

If the parent paying child support is providing insurance for more than just the children (himself or herself, a spouse, etc.), then it is important to figure out the cost for just the children.  Generally an employer will have charts showing the cost of insurance for the employee only, employee plus spouse, employee plus children, and employee plus family. Only the cost of insurance for the children will be factored into the child support calculation.  The parent paying child support will be usually be responsible for either providing the insurance for paying a set amount to the other parent for the cost of insurance.

If the parent paying child support has no other children outside of the case at issue, child support is calculated as 20% for one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three, 35% for four, 40% for five, and “not less than the amount for five children” for six children.  The percentages change if the parent paying child support is responsible for supporting other children.  For example, if a parent has one child with the parent involved in our case and one child with someone else, the child support guideline for the child in this case would be 17.50%.

Generally child support is capped at the first $8,550 in net resources.  A custodial parent can bust through that cap if he or she can show that the child’s needs exceed the presumptive amount of support.

Although the family code does provide reasons for deviating from the child support guidelines, it is pretty rare to see a judge order anything different than the guidelines.  I most often see courts vary from the guidelines when the non-custodial parent has more possession time than a standard possession order.  The parents can always agree to a different amount and it will usually be approved.

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