Child support is different from child custody. A parent can have an order for child support regardless of conservatorship or possession of the child. In cases where the Department of Family and Protective Services holds temporary or permanent conservatorship over the child, a court can order both parents to pay for support.
An individual, regardless of child's age, is allowed to file for child support when they're either a parent of the child or another person with legal, physical custody or conservatorship of the child. The child itself can also request child support if he or she is 18 years or older and capable of managing finances. Not paying for child support can lead up to apprehension by law enforcement, so you should seek legal counsel who understands child support laws.
Child Support Attorney in Brownsville, Texas
If you are contending a child support case, then you need a family law attorney to represent you in your court proceeding. Most individuals don't know the factors used to determine who pays for child support nor the elements used to determine the amount of child support, so an experienced family attorney is advised for representation.
At The Gracia Law Firm, we understand you have questions regarding the whole case, and we are ready to answer them. Our attorneys will analyze your case, so we can make sure you don't miss any detail that is important to present in court. We want to make sure every aspect of your life is also taken into consideration. Call our office at (956) 504-2211 for a free phone consultation or fill out one of your case consultations forms at the bottom of the page.
Our lawyers at The Gracia Law Firm work with clients in Brownsville and the counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy.
Overview of Child Support
- How is Child Support Calculated?
- Deviations from Texas Child Support Calculations
- How Long does Child Support Last?
- Medical and Dental Child Support
- Enforcing Child Support
- Additional Resources
How is Child Support Calculated?
Texas uses the percentage of income model. The court takes into account the child support debtor's monthly net income and applies a percentage of the income to total the child support owed amount. The court can attain evidence relating to net resources through past-years income tax returns, financial statements, and current pay stubs. If the parent summoned to pay child support does not supply the court with the necessary documents for income verification, the court can calculate the child support amount based on a standard 40 hours workweek with minimum wage pay. The child support amount deducts all social security tax, federal income tax, state income tax, unions dues, and health insurance dues for the child in the case. Income liable to child support includes but is not limited to the following:
- Wages, salary, or other income (i.e., commissions, tips, bonuses, overtime)
- Self-employment income
- Dividends or interest
- Rental income
- Severance pay
- Retirement or pension
- Capital gains
- Unemployment benefits
- Disability and worker's comp benefits
- Child support received from another open case
- Other property or assets
The guidelines are based on the parent's monthly net income, not exceeding $7,500. If the parent's net income is greater than $7,500, the court applies the guidelines to the portion amount not exceeding $7,500 but may also require additional funds from the parent. Child support net income percentage amounts fluctuate based on the number of children:
1 child = 20%
2 children = 25%
3 children = 30%
4 children = 35%
5 children = 40%
6 children or more = No less than the amount for five children
When a parent's income is not enough to meet the child support calculated amount, the court subtracts the total child support amount off the available net income. The amount left can be allocated between the parties to meet the child's needs adequately. The amount of child support amount cannot exceed 100% of the child's needs amount. If the income of the parent owing child support changes, he or she must notify the court immediately to apply for a child support modification.
Deviations from Texas Child Support Calculations
A court can choose to deviate from the standard child support guidelines of the state when they deem the guidelines to be unequal or unfitting, especially if the child support payer's net resources exceed $7,500. The court can also take into account the costs associated with child care from other children under the parent's custody or additional child support owed.
Texas Family Code § 154.129 provides a chart example for the lesser percentage amount a parent can be required to pay if he or she has children in more than one household. The average amount found in the standard guidelines decreases with the number of other children owed a duty of support. Since an amicable settlement is encouraged between the parties, the parties in dispute can come up with their own agreed specific child support amounts.
How Long Does Child Support Last?
Texas Family Code § 154.001 states a child support case can last up until the child within the case turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. However, a child support case can be exempt if the child gets married or the child passes away. If the parents of the child in the case decide to get married or remarried, then the child support order is also terminated.
Child support can also be indefinite if the child has a disability. The disability must have known to exist on or before the child turned 18 years old. The amount can change after the child becomes 18 but is all dependent on the child's disability case costs as determined by the court.
If the parent owing child support dies before the child support debt is satisfied, his or her estate can be used to pay off the full child support amount. The court can also demand a child support payer to carry a life insurance policy and include the child in the case as his or her beneficiary. If the parent owing child support is incarcerated, his or her payment amount can fluctuate but doesn't go away and instead accumulates. Texas offers special programs for noncustodial parents who get released from prison and need help finding a job to pay off their child support dues.
Medical and Dental Child Support
Medical support and dental support are separate from the regular child support amount unless both parties agree otherwise. If available, an employer-based health insurance policy can be used to meet medical support dues. However, if the person receiving child support includes the child in his or her health insurance policy, then the other parent must pay an amount equal to the cost of that health insurance. The type of health insurance plan has to be at a reasonable price. If there is no health insurance plan available for either parent, the parent owing medical support must pay no more than 9% of his or her annual resources for the child's medical expenses.
Similarly, dental support is separate from both the regular child support amount and the medical support amount. The parent owing child support must pay no more than 1.5% of his annual resources for dental expenses related to the child. The court prioritizes any dental insurance availability through either parent's employer-based dental insurance plan. The dental insurance cost must be of reasonable cost for the child support payer. For both dental and medical insurances, the parent owing child support must show he or she has attempted to apply for these insurances in some way before resorting to paying off the medical and dental support amounts in a cash settlement.
Enforcing Child Support
Child Support Payments
A court can order a parent to pay off his child support dues through periodic payments, annual payments, or lump-sum payments. A parent paying for child support usually pays the State Disbursement Unit first, and the State Disbursement Unit then releases the funds over to the payee. The order can always be sent to the obliging parent's employer directly, and have the employer deduct the child support amount from the parent's paycheck and send it to the State Disbursement Unit instead. An owing parent's federal tax refunds or property can always be used as collateral for unpaid child support dues. In extreme cases, outstanding child support can even lead up to jail time.
Retroactive Child Support
Texas Family Code § 154.009 establishes that a parent can be asked to pay for retroactive support in case of the following:
- The parent was never asked to pay for child support previously; and
- The parent was not involved in a child support suit for that child.
Additionally, retroactive child support can be requested if a previous child support order ended on the parents' marriage or remarriage date. Yet, the parents got separated again shortly after — the retroactive child support is based on the separation date.
The following can be a basis for making the parent pay for retroactive child support:
- Whether the mother of the child attempted to contact the parent letting him know of his probable paternity or paternity of the child;
- The parent knew of his likely paternity or paternity of the child;
- The retroactive child support order might impose financial hardship on the parent's family; and
- The parent had settled support previously
Child Support out of State
Although each state has its own specific child support regulations, The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) makes it easier for states to communicate with each other over child support cases. Some states allow court orders to cross state lines and instruct the parent's employee, in whichever state, to deduct the child support amount off the parent's paycheck. You will need a child support lawyer to determine how to go out about enforcing a child support case that's from another state outside of Texas.
Texas Attorney General | Child Support Division – The child support division page offers an online portal for custodial and noncustodial parents to make their payment submissions easier. Within the website, you can also find helpful checklists for the information you need to get the child support process started in Texas.
Noncustodial Parent Choices | Texas Workforce Commission – The Texas Workforce Commission has information available involving a state program dedicated to offering employment support services to unemployed or low-income noncustodial parents who owe child support. The program works with Workforce Development Boards in Cameron County, TX.
Cameron County Child Support Attorney
Child Support can be a long, complicated process for those who do not understand its laws or the best ways to go about obtaining favorable outcomes. You might be leaving out essential details about your obligations if you are requested to pay child support, and you might end up paying more than you can afford. A family law attorney at The Gracia Law Firm can help explain the Texas laws for child support and court process.
At The Gracia Law Firm, we are determined to fight for your most favorable outcome when deciding on child support and the correct amount to be paid and/or received. Our attorneys can advise you on every step of the way, so you know that the child support amount you will be paying and/or receiving will be correct.
We are based in Brownsville, TX, and work with residents living in Willacy County, Cameron County, and Hidalgo County. Call our office for a free consultation at (956) 504-2211 or fill out one of the case review forms at the bottom of the page.