Almost all cases involving children include an order for at least one parent to pay child support. In most cases the Court orders the parent to pay guideline child support. However, there are valid reasons to deviate from guideline support. In this article we will explore the ins and outs of a child support in Texas Courts.
When is Child Support Appropriate?
The Texas Family Code presumes that it is in the best interest of the child for the noncustodial parent to pay child support. The presumption is rebuttable, which means it can be overcome if the circumstances allow. Circumstances that may qualify include a 50/50 possession schedule or an agreement between the parties. However, Courts order full guideline child support in the overwhelming majority of cases.
What is Guideline Child Support in Texas, and How is it Calculated?
In most divorce cases, the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay what is referred to as guideline child support. Guideline child support is outlined in Section 154 of the Texas Family Code. The parent’s net resources are determined based on formula provided in Section 154. Those net resources are then multiplied by a predetermined percentage to find the amount of child support owed. The percentage is based on the number of children the couple has together.
The parent owes 20% of net income for the first child. Another 5% is added for each additional child, up to a maximum of 40%. Note that a parent only pays child support on the first $11,400 of gross income each month. However, sometimes good cause exists to deviate from guideline support. For example, a child’s special needs that require expensive medical care may cause the Court to order additional child support above the guidelines.
How Does Being Self-Employed Affect my Child Support in Texas?
The Texas Family Code accounts for differences between self-employed and employed parents. The formula for calculating net resource for self-employed parents is adjusted to factor in self-employment tax rates. The net resources are then multiplied by a predetermined percentage to find the amount of child support owed. The percentage is based on the number of children the couple has together. The parent will owe 20% of net income for the first child. Another 5% is added for each additional child, up to a maximum of 40%.
Like employed parents, there is a cap on how much gross income is subject to child support under the guidelines. A self-employed parent only pays child support on the first $12,223 of gross income each month. This assumes that there are not valid reasons to deviate from guideline support.
When is Deviating from Guideline Support Appropriate?
The most common reason to deviate from guideline child support pertains to disabled children. If the child’s disability prevents the custodial parent from maintaining employment, an argument exists to deviate from guideline support. Similarly, if the child’s disability results in high medical-related costs, the noncustodial parent can be ordered to pay additional support to help cover those expenses.
Additionally, the child’s lifestyle prior to divorce can be the basis of an argument to deviate from guideline support. In this situation, the custodial parent cannot afford maintain the same lifestyle after the divorce. The Court may order additional support to help the children maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed before the divorce. This does not mean the Court will order additional support. Please note, this situation is fact specific and requires more than simple an adjustment in lifestyle post divorce.
How do I make sure I get Credit for All of my Child Support Payments?
It may seem easier to just write a check directly to the other parent for your child support payment. However, that is an extremely bad idea. Many decrees have a provision stating that informal payments do not count as a child support payment. Additionally, proving you made payments later requires additional effort and documentation–especially if you paid in cash. We always recommend that our clients make payments through the State Disbursement Unit because it provides a formal record of all payments.
Can I pay all of My Child Support in one Lump Sum Payment?
We recommend against making a lump sum payment for future child support. The Texas Family Code allows a review of child support amounts every three years. Making a lump sum payment now does not preclude the other parent from seeking a review down the road.
Youngblood Law, PLLC absolutely recommends lump sum payments for past child support payments. If you find yourself owing substantial arrears for unpaid child support, paying a lump sum payment significantly reduces the amount of interest you pay.
How do Raises Affect my Child Support Obligation?
Receiving a raise after there is a final order in your case does not automatically affect your child support obligation. The other parent must file a suit to modify your child support. However, receiving a raise during the suit, may affect you child support amount much faster. It is a common practice to recalculate child support just before the final decree is entered. Such a recalculation necessitates a change in your child support amount as soon as the decree is entered.
As stated earlier, the Texas Family Code allows a child support review every three years. However, a modification can be done earlier if there is a material and substantial change in circumstances. In some instances, a decrease or increase in pay is a material and substantial change. To qualify, a change of at least $100 or 20% in your child support amount is required. As a practical matter, this means your net resources must change by at least $500 per month.
How do Bonuses and Overtime Affect my Child Support Obligation?
Whether bonuses and overtime are part of your child support calculation depends on how frequently you receive them. If you routinely or consistently receive either as part of your pay, the court considers them a part of your salary. Thus, they are included in your child support calculation. That calculation is achieved by taking the year-to-date total pay amount and dividing by the number weeks worked. This gives you the average weekly pay amount, which is then multiplied by 52 to find the annual salary. The annual salary is then divided by 12 to determine average monthly pay. The average monthly pay amount is then entered into the guideline support formula to determine the child support amount.
What are Child Support Arrears and How do they Affect me?
Child Support Arrears are amounts owed for past due child support payments. If you are the parent ordered to pay child support, having arrears affects you in two important ways. First, the Office of the Attorney General will assess interest on your balance each month. It is not uncommon to owe more in interest than actual child support. For this reason, we recommend paying more than your required minimum payment each month to reduce your balance as soon as possible. Second, being behind on child support is a contemptable offense. This means jail time is a possible consequence for nonpayment.