Child Support

Establishing Child Support in Texas

Hundred dollar bills with note "child support" on top.

Child support is for the benefit of the child, it is intended to contribute to the child’s needs such as food, clothing and a place to live.

Child support is a huge issue in most any child custody fight and is generally determined by first establishing which parent has primary custody of the child.  The other parent, who has visitation (the Possessory Conservator) will pay child support with minor exception.  I say minor exception because there is precedent (case law created by a Court of Appeals) that allows a Judge to order the party with possession of the children to pay child support if doing so is necessary to ensure both parents have resources necessary to have possession.

The Child support payments are intended to provide a source of financial support for the children during the times the possessory conservator is not there.  In a perfect world, both parents would stay together for the child and the child would have a mother and a father and the financial and emotional support of each without question.  Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, divorce happens, child custody fights occur, and child support has to be awarded.

A common question asked is why the support continues in the summer, even though the parent paying support supposedly has the kids during a large part of the summer.  Simply put, because the expenses incurred raising the children are year-a-round and guideline support does not cover those expenses, rather the purpose of the guidelines is to establish an amount that should cover approximately one-half of the child’s annual expenses. It should cover one-half because both parents have an equal obligation to support the child(ren) regardless of who has possession at the moment.

When should I modify my child support?

Judge's memorandum  on child support

Child support calculations should be easy but they seldom are, the parent who should pay child support may hide assets or be intentionally under-employed. Hire an experienced child support attorney to help you determine the correct child support and set up your orders so that contempt can attach if the support is not paid.

Once a court establishes child support orders, the amount of support ordered can only be changed if some one files a Motion to Modify with the Court.  If the other parent is now making more money, you do not get an increase unless the Court issues a new order.  If you are obligated to pay support and your income has decreased, you do not get a break in the amount of child support you must pay monthly unless the Court issues a new order — your child support does not stop just because you lost a job, it is your responsibility to ask the court for relief in the form of a modification.

There is a lot of information available for the parent receiving child support in the form of friends telling them when the other spouse gets a new car, new job, or even has another child.  These same sources invariably advise to “take him back to court and get more child support”.  Unfortunately, there is not as much concern paid to the parent that pays child support – usually Dad.  In fact, an all too common issue arises when Dad is sued for past due child support and advises that the reason he did not pay is because he lost a job (whether laid-off, terminated for cause, or forced to quit due to health or other concerns).

The fact is:  Just like Mom will not get more child support unless she asks the court to modify when Dad starts making more money, Dad does not get a decrease in child support when his income goes down unless he asks the court to modify.  Furthermore, modifications are NOT retroactive to the event giving rise to the change – the one exception being a de-facto change in custody.

If you are paying child support and you are unable to pay the support ordered by the court due to a change in your income, YOU MUST NOTIFY THE COURT AND REQUEST A MODIFICATION.    If you do not seek a modification and choose to just pay later, you will pay later and you will pay dearly.

When to Modify Child Support Orders

Child Support dollar folded into heart and torn

Dollar of child support folded into heart and torn

Nothing in this life is certain other than death and taxes.  That is to say, things change – people change jobs, remarry, have more children, etc.  The child support you are receiving or paying may be too may be too high or too low. Either way, you owe it to yourself to consult with a family law attorney with experience in divorce and child custody/child support issues when there is a significant change in your life or the life of your child.
Some common reasons to change child support are:

1. Support payment is too high (paying parent makes less money now, is unemployed, in jail, or disable)

2. the child no longer lives with the parent who collects child support

3. support payment is too low (paying parent makes more money now)

4. Child has special needs that warrant support in excess of the guidelines

5. paying parent now has additional children to support (while the income is the same, it must now be split to support more children)

6. the child has become emancipated and no longer entitled to support.

How much is Child Support in Texas

Hardly a day goes by that I am not asked “How is child support calculated and how much will I receive or pay?” The answer is both simple and complex: the amount will be set according to the guidelines, unless the guideline amount is unjust.

The child support guidelines set out in the Texas Family Code are presumed to be reasonable and in the best interests of the child.  Generally speaking, this means that the Court will follow the guidelines unless someone shows the Court that the application of the guidelines would not be appropriate.  Although application of the guidelines is presumed, there are other factors to consider.

As stated above, child support in Texas will be set according to the guidelines unless the guideline amount is unjust. CAVEAT: the Judge can set child support more than guideline or less than guideline – this is an equity rule. Accordingly, he Court’s power to vary from the guidelines is found in chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code which state – the Court may adjust the amount of child support based on multiple factors which are:

1. the age and needs of the child;

2. the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;

3. any financial resources available for the support of the child;

4. the amount of possession and access to the child;

5. the net resources of the parent to pay support, including the earning potential of the parent to pay support if the actual income of that parent is significantly less than what that

6. parent could earn, if intentionally unemployed or underemployed;

7. any childcare expenses necessary for the employment of either parent;

8. whether a parent has custody of another child and any child support expenses being paid or received for the care of another child;

9. the amount of alimony being currently paid or received;

10. provisions for health care;

11. any educational or health care needs of the child, including college expenses;

12. any benefits a parent receives from an employer;

13. any debts or obligations of a parent;

14. any wage or salary deductions of the parents;

15. the cost of traveling to visit the child;

16. any positive or negative cash flow from any assets, including a business or investments;

17. any provisions for health care or insurance;

18. any special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parents or the child;

19. whether either parent has a car or housing furnished by an employer or other person or business; and any other relevant factor.

Texas Codes Annotated; Family Code, Chapters 154.001 to 154.309.


Child Support is based on “net resources”

Texas courts calculate child support by taking a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s “net resources”.  Net resources is defined as the obligor’s income from all sources after deducting Federal Income Tax (at the Single with 1 deduction rate), medicare, social security, the cost of the child’s health insurance, and certain allowances (such as union dues, uniforms, and cost directly related to maintaining the obligor’s job).

After determining the Obligor’s Net Resources, the Court generally will set child support as a percentage using the following table:

Number of Children before the Court

1  =  20%
2  =  25%
3  =  30%
4  =  35%
5 or more  =  40%

Child Support when there are children in multiple households.

It is becoming increasingly common for an obligor to have children in more than one household – that is to say, paying child support to two or more persons, or in the alternative, paying child support to the mother of one child while having custody of another child in the obligor’s home.  In this event, the child support is offset to account for the multiple households using the table below.

Other children
obligor must
support               Children before the Court

           1            2              3             4              5           6             7

1        17.50     22.50      27.38     32.20     37.33     37.71     38.00

2       16.00     20.63     25.20     30.33     35.43     36.00     36.44

3       14.75      19.00     24.00     29.00     34.00     34.67     35.20

4       13.60     18.33      23.14     28.00     32.89     33.60     34.18

5       13.33     17.86       22.50     27.22     32.00     32.73     33.33

6       13.14     17.50       22.00     26.60     31.27     32.00     32.62

7       13.00     17.22       21.60     26.09     30.67     31.38     32.00

Texas Family Code Chapter 154 – Child Support

Child support is assessed to provide for a child's needs, it is based on guidelines in the Texas Family Code ...

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