Texas Child Support

Child support is the amount of money that a parent is required by a law to pay to the parent who retains primary custody of a child. Under Texas law, every parent has a duty to financially support his or her child. Child support is meant to provide for a child’s food, clothing, and medical care, as well as for a child’s education. A court may order a parent (or both parents) to pay child support to ensure that the child's living expenses and well-being are secured.

Child support may be requested by either parent or by a person that has physical custody of a child. There are various ways to seek child support orders. For example, a parent can ask for child support as part of a divorce proceeding or as part of another case. Generally, if the parents of the child are unmarried, paternity must be established before a court will order that a parent pay child support.

Who Has to Pay Child Support?

Federal and state laws generally mandate that both parents are responsible for the support and welfare of their children. If a couple is married when a child is born or conceived, both parents will be presumed responsible for supporting their child. If a couple is unmarried at the birth of a child, then paternity must be legally established. For the most part, the amount of child support will depend upon both parents’ income and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Accordingly, either parent may be required to pay child support to the other. In general, the custodial parent will receive child support from the other parent.

If Parental Rights Have Been Terminated, is the Obligation to Pay Child Support Also Terminated?

A termination of parental rights does not extinguish an obligation to pay child support that was in place before such right was terminated. Indeed, a parent whose parental rights are terminated will most likely still be required to pay any amounts owed. A court will not generally order the termination of parental rights if such order would mean that a child is left with only one parent that will be responsible for the child’s support.

Can Parents Agree on a Support Amount Without Going to Court?

Texas courts generally follow the Family Code’s child support guidelines when determining the amount of child support that a parent will owe. Parents can agree to a different amount of child support or they may even agree that child support is not required. While parents may themselves agree on a support amount, such agreement will generally be subject to court approval. Indeed, if the court finds the parent’s child support agreement is not in the child's best interest, the court may require that the parties submit a revised agreement or the court may on its own accord render a child support order.

How Does the Court Decide How Much the Child Support Amount Should Be?

If parents fail to agree on the amount of child support, the court may order one parent to pay the other parent a monthly specific amount. The judge must decide the child support amount based on a guideline calculation. A judge who orders child support has broad discretion to determine the amount of child support.

While the amount of child support ordered should be in the child's best interest, Texas’ legislature has established guidelines to help a judge determine the amount of child support as a function of the parent’s net resources. These guidelines are presumed to be in a child's best interest. For a parent who has no other children outside the current court proceedings, the percentage of net resources to be applied is:
• One Child: 20% of net monthly income;
• Two Children: 25% of net monthly income;
• Three Children: 30% of net monthly income;
• Four Children: 35% of net monthly income;
• Five Children: 40% of net monthly income.
A Texas judge may consider other factors to determine if the application of these guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. For example, the Court may consider the child's age and needs, the parent's ability to contribute to the child's support, any financial resources available for the child support, the receiving parent’s net resources and earning potential, child care expenses, whether either party has other children or actual physical custody of another child, any amount of spousal maintenance, the child's educational expenses, employee benefits of a parent such as housing or a company car, health insurance and uninsured medical expenses for the child, extraordinary educational, healthcare or other expenses, travel expenses incurred to exercise visitation, positive or negative income from a parent’s assets such as real or personal property, investments or businesses, and any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child.

How Long Does Child Support Last?

The legal duty of support for a child continues until the child turns 18 years of age or graduates from high school (whichever is later) or is emancipated by marriage or by a court order. A child support obligation may also continue indefinitely if the child is disabled, or if a disabled adult (under a support order) cannot support him or herself.

Can Child Support Be Raised or Lowered?

If a parent loses their job or becomes physically disabled and unable to earn an income, it is important to notify the court and the Child Support division of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas. To modify a child support order, a parent must generally establish that:
• the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the current order have materially and substantially changed since such order was rendered; or

• it has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the new child support amount would be at least 20% or $100 per month less than the old child support amount.
In cases where a parent has lost a job, the court may order that the parent seek employment or participate in an employment-training program. In a case where a parent has voluntarily paid more than required by a child support order — but needs to stop paying such extra amount due to changed circumstances — Texas law mandates that a history of support voluntarily provided in excess of the court order does not constitute cause to increase the amount of an existing child support order.

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© 2015 Oberheiden Law Group, PLLC | All Rights Reserved.
Pursuant to TDRPC 7.04(b)(1); Click to view Responsible Attorney. Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Contact