Child support represents money paid from one parent to the other parent for the support of their child or children. After your child is born, you can file a suit for child support so long as the suit is filed before your child turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever occurs last), marries, passes away, or is otherwise emancipated.
Texas law makes an exception to these time restraints if a child is disabled. A parent can file a suit for child support for his or her disabled child at any time, so long as the disability exists before the child’s 18th birthday. It’s highly recommended that you seek professional assistance from an experienced child support lawyer before filing suit for child support. If you can’t afford an attorney, the Texas Attorney General’s office has various resources available for parents seeking child support.
In the original petition a parent files with the court, he or she can request the court to order the other parent to pay child support, retroactive child support, medical support, and/or temporary child support.
Temporary child support is an amount of support paid by one parent to the other parent during the pendency of your suit. The parents can agree to an amount for temporary child support and ask the court to make a temporary order reflecting that agreement.
The parents can also request a temporary hearing, wherein they will put forth evidence and ask the judge to determine the amount of temporary child support to be paid during the suit. Temporary child support is only for the duration of your suit. It will expire when the court makes a final judgment.
Texas has child support guidelines that are intended to guide the court in determining an equitable amount of child support. The child support amount established by the child support guidelines is presumed to be in the best interests of a child, but that presumption can be rebutted. This means that a court can come up with a different amount of child support that varies from the guideline amount so long as the court finds that the guideline amount is unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances. Despite this ability, courts generally apply the child support guidelines in determining the amount of child support.
In Texas, the parent who is ordered to pay child support is called the “obligor” and the parent who receives payments of child support is called the “obligee.” The first step in determining the amount of child support an obligor should pay to the obligee is to determine the obligor’s annual “net resources.” This means income from any sources – wages, bonuses, commissions, oil revenues, rental income, and the like. If it’s income, it’s likely going to be counted for purposes of child support. Federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, union dues, non-discretionary retirement plan contributions, and payments for a child’s health insurance are subtracted from the net resources of an obligor when determining a final amount.
After an obligor’s yearly net resources are determined, the next step is to calculate the obligor’s monthly net resources and apply the child support guidelines to that monthly amount. In general, it’s 20% of those net resources for one child, 25% for two children, and an additional 5% for each child after that, up to 40% or more. Those percentages change if there are children whom the obligor must support, but who are not part of the calculation (like children from another relationship).
If an obligor’s monthly net resources exceed $8,550.00, child support is calculated off of the $8,550.00 amount and not the obligor’s actual monthly net resources. However, the court can increase the child support in these circumstances based on whether the child’s proven needs exceed the amount of calculated child support.
No matter how much an obligor’s net resources are per month, the court can deviate from the child support guidelines upward or downward. In almost all circumstances, payments of child support are made to the state disbursement unit located in San Antonio, Texas, and then sent to the obligee.
Retroactive Child Support
A parent can also request the court to order retroactive child support and medical child support. Retroactive child support reflects the amount of money one parent would owe the other parent prior to the filing of the suit if there had been a child support order in place.
Generally, if a court orders retroactive child support, it is in the case of a paternity suit, with circumstances wherein either the father or mother was not a part of the child’s life prior to the suit and not financially supporting the child.
Medical Child Support
Medical child support is in addition to the amount an obligor is required to pay for child support. The court must specify how health insurance will be provided for a child. The court can order one parent to include the child on his or her health insurance plan, or the court can order one parent to reimburse the other parent an amount that is equal to the costs of health insurance for the child.
Additionally, the court will specify how unreimbursed medical expenses will be paid for the child. Generally, courts order that the unreimbursed medical expenses be split 50-50 between the parents.
Parents have the ability to agree to the issues relating to child support without going to trial or hiring a separate child support lawyer later on. They can even agree to an amount that deviates from the child support guidelines. Parents also have the ability to agree on issues such as payment for college tuition or support for a child who is over the age of 18 and no longer in high school. Once the court approves the agreement, it becomes a judgment.
Consequences for Child Support Evaders
If a parent fails to pay his or her child support, the other parent can file a suit to enforce the child support payments and seek jail time for the obligor.
The State of Texas is serious about “deadbeat” parents who do not pay their child support payments and not doing so could land the obligor in jail. Other severe consequences can occur as well, should the obligated party not make their child support payments on time.
Consequences of delinquent child support or evasion in Texas include:
- Jail time
- Tax return seizure
- Interest accrual on delinquent child support at a 6% rate per year
- Garnishing wages from paycheck for past-due child support
- Driver’s license suspension
- Suspension of professional licenses (medical, dental, hunting, fishing, etc.)
- Freeze and liquidate bank accounts for delinquent child support
- Passport hold
There’s quite a bit to understand regarding child support laws in Texas. At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, we help people understand and work through these issues every day. Contact our experienced child support lawyers to fight for a fair outcome in family court.