When a couple decides to separate, the decision does not end their financial and emotional responsibilities towards their children. Although courts have no control over any couple’s separation, the law takes charge to ensure a secure future for the children involved, through the provision of child support. The laws governing child support in Texas, however, are fairly complex, and therefore, couples usually have a number of questions about what lies ahead. To clear the smokescreen, in this post, we answer five such questions frequently received by attorneys in Austin and other parts of Texas. Read on.
1. What is child support and who pays for it?
When couples decide to separate, they are obligated to support the financial needs of their children, which is referred to as “child support”. Courts assume that the custodian parent is already fulfilling their financial responsibilities towards the children. Generally, the non-custodian parent, termed as the “obligor”, is asked to pay for the child support, according to Texas Family Laws. Child support orders are dictated by Texas county courts and are legally enforced keeping in mind the best interests of the child.
2. How is the amount of child support calculated?
The first step to calculate the amount of child support begins with the calculation of the obligor’s net income. It is the difference between the obligor’s gross income and fixed expenses. The gross income of the obligor includes their salary, commissions, bonus, rental income, royalty income, trust income, and earnings from all other sources of income. After adding up all the incomes, all expenses and dues are subtracted to determine the person’s net income.
Here are the expenses that qualify for deduction:
- Social Security taxes or retirement plan contributions
- Federal income tax exemptions
- Union Dues
- Health insurance and medical expenses going in the favor of the children
Generally, the amount of monthly child support is a fixed percentage of the net income and is decided based on the number of children.
- 1 Child – 20 percent
- 2 Children – 25 percent
- 3 Children – 30 percent
- 4 Children – 35 percent
- 5 Children – 40 percent
- 6 Children or more – Not less than 40 percent
The amount of child support, however, may vary if an obligor has additional children to support besides those involved in the court proceedings.
3. How long does the child support continue?
The non-custodial parent must continue paying child support until the child turns 18 years old. The court can order extended child support until the child graduates high school, provided the enrollment is permanent, and the child shows up regularly. For a disabled child, the payment schedule never ceases and may last for an indefinite period. This recurring obligation can be terminated, when a child either gets married, joins military or becomes legally emancipated.
4. How are child support payments made?
Child support payments are to made according to a schedule (weekly, biweekly or monthly), which can be mutually agreed upon or as decided by the court. To maintain consistency in payments, the court may order the Texas State Disbursement Unit to collect the payments from the obligor and maintain an updated record. Though payments can also be made directly to the custodian parent, forwarding the amount to State Disbursement Unit eliminates the probability of any conflicts arising in the future. In addition, the court may also direct the obligor’s employer to withhold a part of their monthly payout to cover child support payments. This arrangement is known as a “Withholding Order”.
5. What is back child support?
If the non-custodial parent misses out on a number of successive child support payments, the unpaid amount is called “back child support”. Consecutive child support payments, along with interests, can accumulate over time, leading to inflated amounts that can be eventually collected through legal provisions. Enforcing a back child support order is possible only if a working child support is in place and ordered by a Texas court. In addition, failure to pay the amount may lead to the following penalties:
- Wage garnishment
- Suspension of passport, driving and fishing licenses
- A lien on personal property to retrieve and secure payments
- Contempt orders
Back child support cases are hard to untangle, and often impact the upbringing of the child. More often than not, dealing with such cases requires expert assistance from attorneys, no matter whether you are in Austin Texas or any other part of the world.
The Way Forward
Separating couples have the option to mutually decide the terms of child support, failing to which the the court decides the agreement. In addition, the obligor has the right to appeal for a modification in child support payments, which they can do by filing a petition in the court along with a proof of a significant change in their financial circumstances. If you too are searching for a reliable lawyer service or have any questions regarding child support laws in Texas, Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas is here to help. We have a wide pool of experienced lawyers with diverse specializations, with family law and child support being no exception. To learn more, call us at (512) 472-8303, or fill out our contact form and we’ll take it from there.