Establishing Child Support
The Primary Joint Managing Conservator, or the custodial parent generally has the right to receive child support on behalf of the child. The amount of support owed by the Possessory Conservator, or non-custodial parent will depend on the income of the non-custodial parent, as well as the number of children for whom the non-custodial parent has a duty to support (both from the marriage at issue as well as any other children).
If there is only one child of the marriage and no children outside the marriage, child support will be set at 20% of the non-custodial parent’s net income (after FICA, Social Security, and Medicare have been taken out).
If there are two children, the child support will be set at 25% of the net income.
If there are three children, child support will be set at 30% of the net income, and it will increase at 5% increments thereafter.
No parent however, may be required to pay more than 50% of his or her net earnings to fulfill all of his or her child support obligations.
These percentages are adjusted slighty when the non-custodial parent has other children from outside the marriage for whom the non-custodial parent must also pay child support. Also, factors such as whether the non-custodial parent is intentionally unemployed, or underemployed (not earning as much as he or she is capable) will be considered by the court.
The Texas Legislature has found that the following items constitute net resources for purposes of calculating child support:
- (1) 100 percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for per- sonal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses);
- (2) interest, dividends, and royalty income;
- (3) self-employment income;
- (4) net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation); and
- (5) all other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits other than supplemental security income, unemployment benefits, disability and workers’ compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.
Note: This child support calculation does not apply when the noncustodial parent has net income per month in the amount of $8,500 or more.
Additional Factors in Determining Child Support
Texas courts can order child support amounts that are different from the guidelines as set forth above if the court finds that the application of the guidelines would not be in the best interest of the child. In determining whether it would be in the best interest of the child to order more or less child support than the guidelines require, the court will look at a number of factors including things such as the age and needs of the child, the child care costs for the child, the ability of both parents to contribute to the support of the child, the amount of time and possession both parents have with the child, any special or extraor-dinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties and the child, and the cost of travel in order for the noncustodial parent to exercise possession of or access to the child.
Medical Expenses as Additional Child Support
The noncustodial parent is also generally required to pay for the children’s health insurance expenses as additional child support. If the custodial parent maintains health insurance on the children then the noncustodial parent will be required to reimburse the custodial parent for the cost of the health insurance premium for the children’s health insurance.
If the non-custodial parent maintains health insurance on the children then the noncustodial parent will be required to maintain health insurance coverage on the children at his or her sole expense.
In addition, the court will also require the parents to pay for any and all reasonable and necessary healthcare expenses of the children that are not covered by the health insurance premium or reimbursed by health insurance such as copays and deductibles for the children. Typically the court will require the parents to split these costs as additional child support.
Employer’s Order to Withhold
Many Texas courts require that an Employer’s Order to Withhold be signed at the time that a divorce with children is finalized. An Employer’s Order to Withhold orders the employer of the non-custodial parent to take the child support owed directly from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. Although it may take a few weeks to get the process started, once it is up and running, the Employer’s Order to Withhold often makes the process of paying child support smooth and simple. All child support payments are then sent by the employer to a central processing center where the checks are processed and submitted to the parent to whom the support is owed.
Modifying Child Support
In order to request a change, the parent who is requesting the modification must file a Petition to Modify, in which he or she seeks modification of the Final Decree of Divorce. Unless there is a material and substantial change in circumstances, such as the non-custodial parent getting a really big raise, or the child suddenly requires additional support due to illness, child support may generally only be modified every three years, and then, only if the amount of the child support payment would increase or decrease by 20% or $100.00.
Duration of a Child Custody and Child Support Order.
Texas courts generally have jurisdiction to make orders regarding the support and conservatorship of a child until that child reaches the age of eighteen or until that child graduates high school, whichever occurs later. However, this jurisdiction can be extended if the court determines that a child has a physical or mental disability that exists prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday and the court determines that the child will not be capable of self-support.