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Maximizing Your Rights In A Texas Child Support Case

At Sralla Family Law PLLC in San Antonio, we provide top-notch family law representation by using effective advocacy to promote our clients’ rights. We maximize the slate of benefits available under the Texas Family Code.

If you find yourself in the position of needing to pay or collect child support, you can turn to us for knowledgeable counsel at reasonable prices. We are ready to protect your rights to the fullest extent of the law.

Similarly, if you are concerned about the nonpayment of child support leading to driver’s license suspension, we can help.

How Do Courts Calculate Child Support In Texas?

Calculating child support in Texas usually boils down to simple math, although there are some areas in which the court has discretion. The Texas Family Code contains child support guidelines to assist 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 uses the guidelines as a default for computing the support amount.

What Are The Guideline Amounts?

The child support guidelines are as follows:

  • One child: 20% of the obligor’s net resources
  • Two children: 25% of the obligor’s net resources
  • Three children: 30% of the obligor’s net resources
  • Four children: 35% of the obligor’s net resources
  • Five children: 40% of the obligor’s net resources
  • Six or more children: 40% of the obligor’s net resources

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 terminates.

The guidelines also provide relief to the paying party where that party has other children who are not before the court. In other words, if a party’s former 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.

Know The Limitations Of Child Support

There are limits to the amount of child support that the court can impose. For example, the court generally cannot impose a child support obligation that constitutes more than 40% of the paying party’s net resources. Texas Family Code imposes a $7,500 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, additional support can be ordered. 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.

Understanding The Rare Exceptions

The court does have discretion to deviate from the guidelines in appropriate cases. The Family Code specifies a list of 17 factors that the court may consider. 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
  • The amount of visitation time the paying party has with the child
  • The cost of travel related to visitation
  • Child care expenses
  • The amount of alimony paid or received

Most courts are fairly reluctant to deviate from the statutory guidelines. So, evidence to rebut the guidelines must be compelling and demonstrate atypical circumstances.

The areas where the court has the most discretion involve calculating the net resources of a paying party who is self-employed, assigning earning potential to someone who is purposely unemployed or underemployed, 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.

How The Court Determines Net Resources

The computation process begins with the determination of the paying party’s net resources. Net resources include:

  • 100% of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services
  • Interest, dividends and royalty income
  • Self-employment income
  • Net rental income
  • All other income actually being received

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 someone is self-employed, the court must determine their actual net earnings. This can involve a considerable amount of discretion since the paying party’s earnings may fluctuate from one month to the next.

How Long Does Child Support Last?

In most cases, the child support obligation continues until the child turns 18 or is otherwise emancipated. If the child is still in high school at age 18, support continues until graduation. As noted above, where a child is disabled, it may be possible to extend the child support obligation for an indefinite period. The Family Code does not provide for child support to assist a child with college expenses.

Why To Avoid Informal Child Support Arrangements

Our child support and custody lawyers always counsel clients not to make informal payments or rely on informal agreements to pay child support obligations. 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.

Respect The Court Order And Honor Your Rights

Moreover, it is important to remember that child support and visitation are independent rights. Just because one spouse may be behind on child support obligations does not give the other spouse the right to withhold court-ordered visitation with the child. By the same token, a spouse who believes they are 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.

It is imperative for any party involved in a child support dispute to hire a reputable, proven child support lawyer. Your child support attorney can assist you in navigating the sometimes complicated waters of child support court.

Answering Common Questions About Child Support

How much child support do I have to pay in Texas?

Child support amounts are generally determined by the child support guidelines in the Texas Family Code. The code also provides a corresponding credit for each additional child the noncustodial parent has that is not before the court and who the noncustodial parent has a duty to support.

How can I look up my child support case?

The best way to look up your child support case is to contact the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Office either by telephone or online.

What is the minimum child support in Texas if unemployed?

The minimum child support amount for an unemployed parent in Texas is generally based on the assumption of an ability to hold a minimum-wage job.

Can I view my child support order online?

No. Orders must be obtained from the courthouse where they were rendered. Custodial and noncustodial parents can use the child support interactive online tool provided by the Texas Attorney General to check case status, history, payment records, court settings and receive other updates pertinent to a child support case.

How long does it take for the child support to process?

It typically takes five or six business days for a child support payment to post in Texas and can take seven to 10 days from the day that the Attorney General’s office receives an application or order for the child support office to set up the matter administratively.

How long does it take for child support to be deposited?

Funds are generally deposited in the custodial parent’s bank account two to three business days from the date they are received by the Texas Attorney General’s State Disbursement Unit.

Is child support paid weekly or monthly?

Child support can either be paid weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly and typically mirrors the noncustodial parent’s payroll cycle.

How far behind can you get on child support in Texas?

A noncustodial parent should pay his or her child support obligation when it is due without falling behind. The Texas Attorney General could enforce a child support order and have the noncustodial parent held in contempt once that parent misses a single payment. While a single missed payment will typically not result in enforcement action, several missed payments could put a delinquent noncustodial parent on the radar. Adverse action is typically triggered when the custodial parent brings a payment delinquency issue to the attention of the Texas Attorney General.

Can you take someone off child support and put them back on?

Yes. This typically happens when parents separate and then get back together. This change requires a court order. If circumstances change again, the custodial parent may seek a post-decree modification.

It behooves both parties to utilize the services of a Texas child support 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.

Get The Help You Need In An Initial Child Support Consultation

When you need dedicated, tenacious and proven family law attorneys, you can contact Sralla Family Law PLLC. To schedule an initial consultation, call us in San Antonio at 210-600-9565 or send us an email today.