In Texas a large number, mostly all, family law cases will involve child support. This article is meant to aid in the understanding of how child support is calculated and determined in a general since. Other factors can contribute to the outcome of a specific case such as a family violence finding, disabled child(ren) or even custom access and possession agreements that call for irregular or no child support. Child support and medical support can be ordered by a judge as part of a: divorce case, custody case (called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship), paternity case, family violence case or modification case (if there is already a court order pertaining to the child). If you need a family violence protective order call the National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They can refer you to help in your community.
Child support is money that the non-primary parent pays to help with the cost of raising a child, such as the cost of food, housing, clothing, school supplies, daycare and activities. To expand, child support is to be paid to the person with whom the child lives the majority of the time; the primary parent or guardian, usually a parent, but not always. The primary or guardian who is entitled to child support is called the “obligee” or “custodial parent.” A parent ordered to pay child support is called the “obligor” or “non-custodial parent.” It is essential to remember that even if there is no court order, both parents are expected to financially support their child. Some non-primary parents have the misunderstanding that because they leave the home or end the relationship with the primary parent that they do not have to pay until an order is granted by the judge for them to do so. A non-primary parent who does not help support the child may be ordered to pay retroactive support to the primary parent.
If an unmarried father is already providing support, is it necessary to establish paternity? Yes. Even though the child’s father is providing support, he may become disabled, or even die. This way unmarried parents can ensure certain benefits for their children only if paternity has been established.
A common question is if the non-primary parent is entitled to visit the child if he or she is not paying child support? Yes, child support and visitation rights are separate issues. The primary parent must obey the court order for visitation, even if the non-primary parent cannot or will not pay child support. The court can enforce its orders against either parent via your attorney, like skilled Arlington family lawyers.
What if the non-primary parent gets behind in child support payments or refuses to pay?
If a non-primary parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and back payments. The Child Support Division uses many ways to enforce child support orders, including: forcing employers to deduct court-ordered child support from the non-primary parent’s paycheck through a Income Withholding Order. They can hold federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources; file liens against their property and assets, suspending driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses; and file suit. A judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.
What is medical support?
Medical support is additional child support a parent is ordered to pay to cover the cost of health insurance for a child. A parent can be ordered to pay medical support by: providing health insurance coverage for the child, reimbursing the primary parent for the cost of health insurance coverage, or paying cash medical support to the Attorney General if the child receives Medicaid. Commonly, both parents are expected to pay 50% their child’s uninsured expenses. For example, if you are ordered to pay $500 per month child support and $150 per month medical support, then the total amount you are ordered to pay is $650 per month.
Guideline’s for child support is slightly different if the non-primary parent has other children that are outside of the said case before the court. Net resources are determine using a table in the Texas Family Code and includes salary, commissions, overtime, bonuses, dividend income, lottery winnings, etc. There are caps and other considerations on child support amounts that may affect your amounts.
How child support is calculated
Texas law sets the following general guidelines for calculating child support. Child support based on these guidelines is called “guideline child support.”
1 child = 20% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
2 children = 25% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
3 children = 30% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
4 children = 35% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
5 children = 40% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
6 or more children = not less than 40% of the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources
Can grandparents file for child support to establish support for their grandchild(ren)? The simple answer is yes. If the grandparent can provide proof that the child has been living with and under the supervision of the grandparent for at least a period of six months they can file for child support or a SAPCR. If a grandparent has been appointed the legal guardian of the grandchild and the grandparent needs help financially to support the grandchild, they may file. Also, if the grandparent is receiving government benefits such as TANF or Medicaid they may file.
In addition, if the non-custodial parent is in jail or prison when the order is made and the non-primary parent does not have any income due to incarceration the law says the judge should not order child support but they are still responsible for arrears and accruing interest. When the non-primary parent gets out of jail or prison, either parent can file a modification case to ask that child support be ordered if their rights have not been terminated due to incarceration.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Brandy Austin Law Firm PLLC for their insight into child support.