This page details the laws governing child support under the Texas courts. Please call and speak with Kevin Sralla, a San Antonio family lawyer, we can also set up a free consultation to discuss your situation in person.
Calculating child support in Texas usually boils down to simple mathematics, although there are some areas in which the Court has substantial discretion. The Texas Family Code contains child support guidelines to assist the parties and the Court in calculating child support. The amounts specified in the guidelines constitute rebuttable presumptions that such amounts are reasonable and in the best interest of the child. That means that unless a party offers substantial evidence that applying the guidelines is not in the best interest of the child, the Court has been instructed by the Legislature to use the guidelines as a default procedure for computing the amount that the obligor parent must pay for the support of his/her child or children.
The guidelines provide the following child support amounts:
1 child: 20% of the Obligor’s Net Resources
2 children: 25% of the Obligor’s Net Resources
3 children: 30% of the Obligor’s Net Resources
4 children: 35% of the Obligor’s Net Resources
5 children: 40% of the Obligor’s Net Resources
6+ children: 40% of the Obligor’s Net Resources (The Court may not order a party to pay more than 40% of his/her income toward child support).
The paying party is also presumptively responsible for providing health insurance for the child or reimbursing the payee for the cost of health insurance for the child. The Court can also order the paying party to secure life insurance to cover the amount of child support that will become due until the child support obligation would terminate.
The Court does have discretion to deviate from the guidelines in appropriate cases. The Family Code specifies a non-exhaustive list of 17 factors that the Court may consider for purposes of ordering child support in amounts that differ from those recommended by the guidelines. Those factors include: the age and needs of the child, the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child, the paying party’s “earning potential” is such amount differs from the party’s actual net earnings, the amount of visitation time the paying party has with the child, the cost of travel related to visitation, child care expenses and the amount of alimony currently being paid and/or received by a party.
Most courts are fairly reluctant to deviate from the statutory guidelines. So, evidence offered to rebut the presumption of reasonableness of the guidelines must be compelling and demonstrate atypical circumstances.
The guidelines also provide relief to the paying party where that party has other children that are not before the Court. In other words, is a party’s fomer spouse sues him for child support, but the party has a child or children from his current relationship or a prior relationship, the percentage amount he must pay is reduced accordingly.
The areas where the Court has most discretion involve calculating the net resources of a paying party who is self-employed, assigning “earning potential” to a paying party that the Court believes is purposely underemployed or unemployed, factoring in overtime pay and bonus pay, and determining the amount of a child’s special needs due to a disability or some other factor.
In any case, the computation process begins with the determination of the paying party’s net resources.
Net Resources have been defined by the Legislature to include:
100% of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses)
Interest, dividends, and royalty income
Net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation)
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)
For most employed persons, the computation process simply involves the Court examining pay stubs and tax returns to arrive at the net earnings figure. Where a paying party is self-employed, the Court must determine his/her actual net earnings from tax returns and any other evidence available. This can involve a considerable amount of discretion since the paying party’s earnings may fluctuate from one month to the next. It behooves both parties to utilize the services of an attorney who is knowledgeable in the Family Code and who knows how to effectively advocate for the client, obtaining positive results in these discretionary gray areas. At Sralla Law Offices, we possess the kind of experience necessary to advocate effectively for our clients thereby maximizing the benefits received on issues of discretion by the Court.
In most cases, the child support obligation continues until the child turn 18, or is otherwise emancipated. If the child is still in high school at age 18, support continues until high-school graduation. As noted above, where a child is deemed by the Court to be disabled, it may be possible to extend the child support obligation to such a special-needs child for an indefinite period of time. Moreover, while the Family Code does not provide for child support to assist a child with college expenses, the parties may contract for assistance during this time period.
There are limits to the amount of child support that the Court can impose on a paying party. For example, as noted above, the Court generally cannot impose a child support obligation that constitutes more than 40 percent of the paying parties net resources. Also, the Texas Family Code imposes a $7,500.00 cap on the net resources that may be assigned to a party for child-support purposes. However, where it can be proven that a child’s needs exceed the amount of child support yielded by setting the paying party’s net resources at $7,500.00, additional support can be ordered in an amount equal to the proven needs of the child. In these cases, the Family Code provides that child support shall be set at the guidelines amount achieved by capping the net resources at $7,500.00 or the amount equal to 100% of the proven needs of the child.
Sralla Law Offices always counsels its clients not to make informal payments or rely on informal agreements to pay child support obligations. Informal payments are generally deemed to be in addition to, rather than in lieu of, the primary child support obligation. A paying party who makes informal payments could find himself in contempt of court for not paying the amount specified by the Court order in the manner required by the Court order. All payments should be made through the Child Support Disbursement Unit of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. This is best for the protection of both parties.
Moreover, it is important to remember that child support and visitation are independent obligations/rights. That means that just because one spouse may be behind on child support obligations, that fact does not give the other spouse the right to withhold court-ordered visitation with the child. By the same token, a spouse who believes he/she is being denied visitation with the child is not entitled to stop paying court-ordered child support. In any case where child support is not being paid or visitation rights are being compromised or denied outright, the proper remedy is to file a motion to enforce the underlying Court order. This is a contempt proceeding that is quasi-criminal in nature, because the Court can order that the offending party be sent to jail for each violation of the order.
It is imperative for any party involved in a child support dispute to hire the best possible lawyer to assist them in navigating the sometimes complicated waters of child-support court and who is knowledgeable in the Family Code. In every area from collecting child support for custodial parents to keeping the Attorney General’s office honest in cases involving discretion in setting child support payment amounts, Sralla Law Offices specializes in providing top-notch legal representation by utilizing effective advocacy skills to promote our clients’ interests and maximizing the slate of benefits available to each client under the Family Code. If you find yourself in the position of needing to initiate or collect child support or needing representation in a case where you are required to pay child support, Sralla Law Offices can provide legal expertise at reasonable prices while protecting your rights to the fullest extent of the law.
Kevin “Buck” Sralla
Welcome, I am Kevin “Buck” Sralla, an experienced family law attorney in San Antonio, TX. I am licensed to practice in Texas state courts and skilled at advocating for my clients’ rights whether the setting be in a courtroom before a judge or jury or an informal mediation or settlement negotiation process.