In Texas, when a couple gets a divorce and children are involved, the non-custodial parent may be liable for child support. A court could order either or both parents to support a child but it usually falls on the parent spending the least amount of time with the child.

Even if physical custody is equally split, one parent may have to pay child support if they make more than the other parent. The most important factor in determining a child support order is the child’s best interests and actual needs. You can obtain child support through the court system, or with the assistance of the Texas Attorney General’s Office (Child Support division).

How is Child Support Calculated in Texas?

Child support is intended for the benefit of the child, and usually pays for: food, shelter, and clothing; health and medical care; and educational expenditures. Texas child support is based on a formulaic equation.

This equation is presumed to be in the best interests of the child. The court factors in the non-custodial parent’s net resources and net income, other resources, and how many children that parent is responsible for supporting.

Additionally, courts generally require each parent to complete a financial statement, before they make a decision on child support. In this statement, each parent must detail their monthly income and expenses.

A child support order also depends on the non-custodial parent’s income threshold and the number of children involved. For example, for a person with an income of $7,500 or less of net resources per month, the general support payments as a percentage are twenty percent for one child, twenty-five percent for two children, thirty percent for three children, thirty-five percent for four children, forty percent for five children, and no less than forty percent for six or more children.

For an income of over $7,500, the court can order an additional amount. As an example, if you have net monthly resources of $5,000 and are ordered to pay child support for your two children, then Texas courts will likely order general support payments in the amount of $1,250 per month. That amount would be presumed to be in the best interests of the child, but can fluctuate based on the children’s actual needs.

Other things a court may consider include in calculating a child support order is child visitation arrangements, or the standard of living of the child before the divorce or separation. Something else they may consider is a spouse’s ability to earn, rather than actual earnings. This means that a spouse that was earning $15,000 a month cannot suddenly take a position that only pays $1,500 a month and expect their child support order to decrease.

The non-custodial parent is free to pay more than the guideline amount; parents cannot, however, agree to pay less between themselves. A court must approve all child support payments. Additionally, the custodial parent is not free of financial obligations just because they are not paying child support. The law assumes that the custodial parent spends money directly on the child, and is essentially paying child support through the day-to-day costs of raising a child.

Other items that may be addressed in a child support order include the medical and dental coverage for the child. In fact as of September 1, 2018, both a child’s health and dental insurance must be covered by a child support order. Previously, only a child’s health insurance had to be covered by the order.

What Events Can Result in a Texas Child Support Order to be Modified?

Yes, a child support order can be modified, if there has been a change in circumstances. Some examples of these changes are:

  • A big increase or decrease in either parent’s income;
  • The child is several years older than when the original child support order was given;
  • The child has reached the legal age of majority;
  • Child custody or visitation changes;
  • Temporary economic or medical hardship of the non-custodial parent;
  • A child’s medical emergency; and/or
  • The needs of the child changes.

In order to modify a prior child support order, three years must have passed since the prior order was signed by a judge. Also, a substantial change must have occurred, such as the monthly child support payments deviating by more than 20 percent or $100 from the Texas guidelines. Another way to modify a child support order is by the parties agreeing to the modification.

However, as of September 1, child support orders that deviate from the Texas Family Code guidelines will only be able to be modified if the material conditions of the child or person subject of the order have substantially changes since the previous order.

This means that the other two conditions that previously applied, no longer apply. Thus, agreements by the parents outside of court and the monthly payments deviating by 20% or $100 may no longer be used as means to modify and existing child support order. However, both of these may still be used as a basis for modifying a child support order that complies with the Texas Family Code guidelines.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Child Support in Texas?

Family law is very complicated and high-stakes, due to the well-being of the children being such a large and important factor. If you are looking to establish child support, or to modify a pre-existing child support order, it’s wise to speak with an experienced and licensed Texas child support lawyer.

They can help you better understand child support laws, how child support payments are calculated, understand your options, and generally navigate the complicated legal system. In addition, a lawyer may be able to help you weigh in your circumstances to either increase or decrease the child support from the formulaic equation provided by the Texas Family Code guidelines.