Note: In light of current circumstances, it's worth noting that COVID-19 stimulus checks can (and will) be seized to repay delinquent child support payments.
It's no secret that child support cases can be frustrating to navigate. If one party is unwilling to negotiate a reasonable child support arrangement or refuses to pay their share, child support disputes can quickly become difficult to manage.
The more prepared you are going into your child support case, the easier it will be to handle the process and negotiate a favorable agreement. In today's blog, we're taking a look at what you should know about child support in Texas.
How Does Child Custody Work in Texas?
Recently, we wrote a comprehensive guide to child custody in Texas. Throughout this blog, we'll refer to terms such as managing conservator and possessory conservator. Texas uses these terms in place of custodial parent and noncustodial parent, respectively. If you want to know more about the child custody process in-depth or have questions about the terms we use, please read the above blog, which also covers topics such as drafting a parenting plan.
Child support essentially functions as the "part two" to child custody. In a child support case, the court tries to ensure that the child maintains the same quality of life post-divorce that they enjoyed while the parents were married.
Texas uses net income (how much you earn after taxes) to determine how much a parent should pay. However, it is important to note that the net income utilized is gross minus the allotted federal deductions and does not include other deductions/withholdings. While child support payments might vary on a case-by-case basis, Texas law generally uses the following guidelines:
- If the parents have one child, the possessory conservator pays 20% of their net income.
- The rate increases by 5% for each extra child. So, if the parents have two children, the possessory conservator pays 25% of their net income. If the parents share five or more children, the possessory parent contributes 40%.
- *please note, the percentages provided above may change if there are children “outside” of the case for which the obligor is obligated to support.
For many parents, child support can seem like a somewhat arcane process. While the court does use the above guidelines to determine child support payments, several additional factors can affect the child support order you receive from the court.
What You Should Know About Child Support Cases
If you're working through a child support case now, there are some things you should know:
- Your child support order isn't set in stone. Depending on the conservators' financial circumstances, the court might issue a child support order modification. The court might order the possessory conservator to pay more or the court may as the possessory conservator to pay less. The factors that determine whether or not more support, less support, or guideline support may be ordered by a Court are specific to each case and should be discussed with an attorney.
- Failing to pay for child support can have severe legal penalties. Parents who fail to pay for child support in Texas can receive license suspensions, have their wages garnished, and even go to state jail. If you're struggling to pay for child support, you should file for a modification of the prior order with the court and attempt to continue paying as best you can until your case gets heard. Simply abandoning payments or trying to avoid authorities can be disastrous.
- Child support payments can last longer than you think. Frequently, child support obligations are set to expire once a child reaches majority (turns 18 years old). However, that's not always the case. If a child gets held back (so they're still in high school when they reach majority), the court might extend payments. Additionally, in cases where a child has a complicated medical history, is disabled, or is dependent upon others for care, the court may extend child support past the age of majority.
Ultimately, the best way to achieve an equitable child support arrangement is by planning ahead. You will need to have copies of personal financial statements, such as pay stubs, bank account statements, tax returns, etc. To aid the court, or your attorney, in the calculation of potential child support payments. The more information you can give the court/your attorney to present them with an accurate overview of your finances, the more likely you are to get a fair child support judgment.
As a final tip, it's also wise to avoid posting on social media while going through a child custody or support case. Even if you've been saving up for ten years or are using money from selling the marital home during your divorce, the court won't look favorably on a post about buying a new car while arguing for a lower child support obligation.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we can provide you with counsel on all things child support related and help you anticipate a potential judgment regarding the same.
To learn more or arrange a consultation with our firm, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.