- May 19
- Evans & Herlihy
- Family Law
State statute determines how child support is calculated in Texas, though a judge has some flexibility. Whether you’re receiving or paying child support, you need to focus on your child’s needs and meet them as best you can. Judges take child support seriously, so if you’re obligated to pay it but can’t afford the payments, you could ask to reduce your obligations.
Under Texas law, child support isn’t voluntary. If a court decides how much support you must pay, you have a legal duty to do so. Even though child support payments are required in Texas, parents often stop paying or pay less than the ordered amount. This may be the result of changes in a parent’s financial situation. They may be laid off or have unexpected medical bills. However, a change in payments can have other motivations. A parent could also stop paying as leverage for a better custody or divorce order.
Determination of Who Pays Child Support
Physical custody (the time a parent spends with a child) determines who pays child support. In most cases, the “noncustodial parent” — the parent who spends less time with the child or children — pays child support. The parent paying support is the “obligor.” No matter which parent you are, child support payments are solely for your child’s benefit. In Texas, the payments are determined by formulas and specific guidelines.
How is the Amount of Child Support Determined in Texas?
The amount of child support is determined based upon a percentage of the obligor’s income. However, parents can agree to pay more than Texas guidelines require. What they cannot do in Texas is decide to pay less, even if both parents are in agreement. The court makes the final approval of the amount of child support.
The custodial parent must also share in the costs of raising the child. The calculation of the child support payment starts with the obligor’s gross income, deducts some costs, determines a net income, factors in the number of children, and then takes a percentage of that amount.
Determining Gross Income for Child Support Payments
Gross income includes all wages, salary, commissions, tips, overtime, and bonuses. Losing a job doesn’t necessarily mean you have no income. You may get a severance payment, unemployment benefits, rental income from an owned property, Social Security, or workers’ compensation benefits. Your income could also include gifts, prizes, and alimony.
If a judge thinks it’s appropriate, an income value for assets that don’t produce income, like a second house or car, could be added. This valuation of assets by a judge could also apply to inherited property that could be sold. Its market value could be considered income. If a judge thinks a parent has decided not to work or is underemployed to avoid making support payments, the court can attribute income the parent should be earning to determination of the amount of child support that parent should pay.
Determining Net Income for Child Support Payments
After calculating gross income, the next step is determining net income, which is usually less than gross income. The following would be subtracted:
- Social Security taxes or, if none are paid, any mandatory retirement plan payments
- Federal income tax payments
- Union dues
- Health insurance premiums and medical expenses for the child or children if a court order covers these costs.
Once the annual net income is determined, it will be divided by 12 to determine the monthly net income. If you’re already paying support for another child, that would be a credit toward additional payments.
Formula for How Child support Is Determined in Texas
Once monthly net income is calculated, take that amount and multiply it by a percentage based on how many children the parent supports:
- 1 child – 20%
- 2 children – 25%
- 3 children – 30%
- 4 children – 35%
- 5 children – 40%
These percentages apply when the net monthly income is up to $7,500 a month. If it’s more than that, the judge increases the support award depending on both parents’ income and the child’s needs.
How Flexible are the Texas Child Support Guidelines?
There’s a presumption that the guideline is appropriate. If a parent wants the amount to increase or decrease, they must show the judge that the amount is unfair or doesn’t serve a child’s best interests. When making a decision, the court should review all relevant factors, including the following:
- The child’s age and needs
- Whether the custodial parent can support the child
- Financial resources, assets, income, and debts
- The amount of time the child spends with each parent
- The custodial parent’s net resources
- Childcare costs
- The managing conservatorship or legal custody
- The obligor’s alimony payments
- The child’s post-secondary education costs
- Whether a parent has unusual employment benefits, such as housing or a car
- Other wage deductions
- Cost of health insurance and which parent provides it
- Extraordinary costs, such as education or health care
- The child’s travel costs between parents
- Income from property or other assets.
Modifications, or Changes, to the Amount of Child Support
After a child support order is in place, a parent can ask that it be modified if a “substantial” change has occurred. This can include changes in:
- The obligor’s income
- The child’s medical needs or the cost of health insurance
- The child’s living arrangements.
What is the Average Child Support in Texas? What is the Maximum Child Support in Texas?
If you are wondering how much child support you can get, know that each case is unique and based on the incomes of the parents. For example, a child with special needs could justify payments beyond what’s in the guidelines. Or, in some cases, the parents may agree to a support amount that’s more than required. Though the Texas guidelines may seem to limit the maximum amount of child support you could receive, it can depend on what a parent is willing and able to pay.
We Help Parents Facing Child Support Issues. Do You Need Help?
If so, talk to the child support attorneys at the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm. We can help a parent establish a child custody order, enforce it, or modify it as needed. Our experienced family law team works to resolve issues quickly. We want to minimize the stress that families feel about the financial support their children need. We understand that family law issues can be sensitive and emotional. You can trust us to handle your case with respect and discretion.
Call us at (512) 732-2727 to request a private consultation so we can talk about your situation, how Texas law may apply, and your best options for taking the next step.