Determining Child Support

Determining Child Support FAQs:

Who has to pay child support and how is the amount determined?

Historically in Texas, you have one parent who’s a primary custodial parent and the other parent has the Standard Possession Order in which they will have the children 40 percent to 45 percent of the time, depending on each case. Usually, the non-custodial parent has a duty to pay support. That support is based on guidelines that we have and you pay a percentage of your average net monthly income. For the first child you pay 20 percent of your net monthly income and for each additional child you had an additional 5 percent of your income. So, if you have two children, you pay 25 percent of your net monthly income. Three children would be 30 percent.

How is child support determined in a case where the parties have equal custody?

If the parties either agree to a 50/50-type schedule or if a court order s a 50/50-type schedule, there’s not specific guideline that we have in the Texas Family Code to deal with that situation. What we find in practice that a lot of courts do is they calculate what dad would pay mom if he was paying support under our guidelines, and then do a calculation and calculate what mom would pay dad under our child support guidelines, and then do some offset calculations so that there is still some support paid but it may be a reduced amount. But in that type of situation, the court’s got the authority and the flexibility to do what they believe is in the best interests of the children and what’s equitable under those circumstances.

Is there any connection to standard of living in relation to child support?

Well, it’s not supposed to be part of the equation for child support under our guidelines. It really is based on the monthly net income. And there’s some presumptive caps there also, so at this time the net monthly income is presumptively capped at $8,550.00 per month, and I think you’re probably going to hit that if you make $125,000 to $135,000 a year, depending on what the tax charts, which change every year.

So, if you have somebody making a child support obligor making $500,000 a year, there’s still a presumption that he only pays child support on the first $8,550 of monthly net income. Now, in a divorce situation, if you have that kind of disparity in income, certainly there are other things the court can do to try to level the playing field. If you have a higher income, typically you have more assets within the divorce; so the court could give the other party a disproportionate share of the assets and that might provide them with the resources necessary to increase their lifestyle.

Another thing to consider if you’re the party that makes a half-million dollars a year and you’re not going to have primary custody, you’re going to pay for child support. And let’s just say that’s the dad. Then do you want the mom living in a trailer? Or do you want to give her more assets or do you want to pay her more money so she has the ability to get into a neighborhood that you think is safe for your children, with good schools, and nicer parks. Sometimes, even if the court is not supposed to consider lifestyle, it still comes into the negotiations.