All parents are legally obligated to provide support for their children. This duty arises out of their role as a parent to their child. Separation does not terminate a parent’s duty to financially support their children.
The nature and extent of a child support order may depend on the ultimate arrangement of parenting responsibilities between the parties. In most cases, one parent will have possession of the child or children for less than 50% of the time, and their duty to support their children will be measured in a child support order. In these cases, while the other parent’s obligation to support the children remains, their obligation will not be formalized in a child support order.
How Do Courts Determine the Amount of Child Support?
The Texas Family Code establishes guidelines for courts to follow when fashioning a child support award. A child support payment amount that is calculated using the statutory guidelines is presumed to be reasonable and in the best interests of the child. To calculate child support, the Court must (1) determine the amount of income available for child support (“net resources”), (2) apply the child-support guidelines to the net resources to determine the amount of support, and (3) consider any other factors that might justify deviating from the guidelines and adjust the support as appropriate.
Under the statutory guidelines, courts will calculate child support based on the parent’s financial resources, which include:
- Wage and Salary Income
- Self-Employment Income
- Severance Pay
- Retirement Pay
- Social Security Benefits
- Veterans Affairs Disability Benefits
- Unemployment Benefits
- Disability and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
- Child Support from Other Sources
- Net Rental Income
- Interest Income
- Capital Gains
- Trust Distributions
- Annuity Income; and
- Gifts and Prizes
In most cases, the starting point of determining what financial resources are available for child support, is courts determining the gross income of the parent obligated to pay child support. A court will then subtract the cost of certain expenses, such as taxes, to determine their net income. This is similar to how people can deduct certain expenses from their federal income tax returns.
To determine the amount of child support, the Court must apply the child support guidelines found in the Family Code to the parent’s net resources.
If the parent’s monthly net resources are $9.200 or less, the amount of child support is calculated as a percentage of that amount, based on the guidelines chart found in the Family Code. If the parent’s monthly net resources are more than $9,200, the percentage is calculated as if the monthly net resources are $9,200.
Under the Texas Family Code guidelines, the obligor’s child support is calculated as follows:
- For 1 child, 20% of their monthly net resources
- For 2 children, 25% of their monthly net resources
- For 3 children, 30% of their monthly net resources
- For 4 children, 35% of their monthly net resources
- For 5 children 40% of their monthly net resources
- For 6 or more children, at least 40% of their monthly net resources
Texas Family Code § 154.123 lists factors courts look at when considering whether to deviate from the statutory child support guidelines including:
- “the age and needs of the child;
- the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;
- any financial resources available for the support of the child;
- the amount of time of possession of and access to a child;
- the amount of the obligee’s net resources, including the earning potential of the obligee if the actual income of the obligee is significantly less than what the obligee could earn because the obligee is intentionally unemployed or underemployed and including an increase or decrease in the income of the obligee or income that may be attributed to the property and assets of the obligee;
- childcare expenses incurred by either party in order to maintain gainful employment;
- whether either party has the managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of another child;
- the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or received by a party;
- the expenses for a son or daughter for education beyond secondary school;
- whether the obligor or obligee has an automobile, housing, or other benefits furnished by his or her employer, another person, or a business entity;
- the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal services of the parties;
- provision for health care insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
- special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or of the child;
- the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to a child;
- positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a business and investments;
- debts or debt service assumed by either party; and
- any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.”
Other Considerations for Child Support
In some cases, the court may assign a reasonable amount to assets that are capable of producing income but are not actually producing any income. This is known as deemed or imputed income and can increase the obligor’s child support payments beyond what they actually make. By doing this, courts ensure that a parent does not intentionally underutilize their assets to wrongfully minimize their obligation to pay child support.
A parent’s legal duty to support their child includes the provision of adequate medical and dental care. This is specifically known as medical child support and “dental child support” and must be ordered in the following legal actions:
- Proceedings involving the determination of periodic child support payments
- Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) where the court has determined that an order of medical support must be rendered or subsequently modified
Legal actions under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)
Further, the court may order “retroactive child support” as repayment of monies spent for the care of the children in the past. It represents funds the nonsupporting parent owed to the child, as well as funds owed to the supporting parent to discharge the nonsupporting parent’s proportionate duty of financial support to the child.
You Deserve Effective Legal Counsel—Coker, Robb & Cannon Can Help
Child support is a significant issue in Texas family law cases. To help make sure you and your child’s interests are properly considered during legal proceedings involving child support, you should reach out to an experienced attorney at Coke, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers.
Please call us at (940) 293-2313 or contact our office online to schedule an initial consultation about your questions and concerns today.