As a simple definition, child support is when one parent–either the
mother or the father–agree to financially support the care of their
children residing with the other parent. It’s generally best for
all involved if the parents can agree on with whom the child will be living,
and therefore, who will be making the child support payments. If both
parents want custody of the children, or, in a more unfortunate case,
neither parent wants custody of the children, then it will be left up
to the court to decide who retains custody and who must pay for the support.
It is possible that neither biological parent will be granted custody of
the children, and that honor will go to another conservator such as the
grandparents. In cases like these, both parents will typically be required
to pay the non-parent conservator child support.
How Child Support is Calculated
The amount the non-custodial parent will have to pay in child support is
a calculated percentage of the parent’s income, which includes all
wages and salaries–with tips and overtime–social security
or disability benefits, worker’s compensation, retirement benefits,
and spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony). However, social security
taxes, income taxes, union dues, and health care costs are all deducted
from the non-custodial parent’s income BEFORE child support is calculated.
The amount of income the custodial parent receives is not taken into consideration.
The formula that calculates this percentage includes the number of children
between the spouses (both natural and adopted) and how many other minor
or disabled children the non-custodial parent has with someone else, who
he or she is supporting financially–whether these other children
are living with the parent or not. For instance, if the divorcing parents
have one child together, and the non-custodial parent is already financially
supporting one other child from a previous relationship, then the non-custodial
parent will pay 17.5% of his or her income to child support.
Even if the non-custodial parent is unemployed, the court can still order
them to pay child support based on the current minimum wage, as if he
or she were employed.
The formulas are not overly complicated, but, because of the many variables
involved (how many children are being supported, how many children, who
are not a part of the current case, but are also being supported by the
non-custodial parent, and so on), it’s probably best to see an attorney
to find out what is the likely amount of support you would either owe,
or be due, in your case.
How to Pay Child Support
Non-custodial parents can pay child support either themselves or they can
have the money withheld from their paychecks by their employer. If the
parent opts to pay child support themselves, then they must send the payment
either directly to the ex-spouse or to the
Texas State Disbursement Unit. The Court Order for support will specify the exact payment method and
to whom the support is paid. It is important to follow the Order exactly.
What Happens if Child Support is Not Paid?
If the non-custodial parent stops making child support payments or consistently
makes late child support payments, thereby causing the custodial parent
financial duress, then the custodial parent has every right to initiate
a court proceeding to enforce the Order for child support payments. If
the custodial parent can prove that the obligated parent has not made
child support payments, then the indebted parent could face jail time
in addition to court costs and the ex-spouse’s attorney’s fees.
Moral of story–always keep a line of communication open with your
ex-spouse in regards to financial difficulties with making child support
payments. It’s far easier to work out an agreement between the two
of you than to get the court involved once more. However, parties cannot
generally agree to not follow a Court order, so, if you reach an agreement
regarding changing – increasing, decreasing, or eliminating –
child support, you should see an attorney immediately and have that agreement
made a part of a new Court order.