Child support is calculated using state-mandated guidelines, but there are many factors that a court uses to arrive at an actual amount.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how child support works in Texas.
Who Must Pay Child Support in Texas?
In Texas, physical custody and the amount of time a parent spends with a child determines who will make child support payments. A judge may order both parents to support a child, but in most cases, the “noncustodial parent” (the parent with the least amount of time with the child or children) pays child support. Under Texas child support laws, this parent is also called the “obligor”.
Also, the law assumes that the custodial parent must support the child by spending money directly on the daily cost of raising the child.
If an obligor has not been paying child support, the court can order retroactive child support to be paid to the obligee. The court can order retroactive child support paid for up to four years preceding the date of the support petition.
The noncustodial parent’s income is used in calculating child support payments, and child support guidelines are a schedule that can be used for child support payments. Parents may pay more than the suggested amount, but not less.
How is Child Support Determined in Texas?
Texas uses Child Support Guidelines to determine the amount of support a parent must pay. Guidelines set a basic minimum amount of child support, and the court can deviate from them after consideration of numerous factors.
Child support guidelines are applied based on Net Monthly Income and the number of children in need.
For child support purposes, net income includes:
- all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
- self-employment income
- interest and dividends
- net rental income from property the parent owns
Even unemployed parents may still have some income from sources such as:
- severance pay
- unemployment benefits
- retirement benefits
- veterans’ benefits
- disability benefits, or
- workers’ compensation awards
If appropriate, a judge may also assign an income value to a parent’s assets that don’t currently produce income. For example, if a parent inherits property, the judge might consider the property’s potential rental value as part of the parent’s income.
To compute net monthly income, the court will calculate gross income on an annual basis and then convert that to the average monthly gross income. In other words, the court will divide the net yearly income/resources by 12 to come up with monthly net resources.
After determining a Net Monthly Income, the court will then apply one of two standards:
- The first standard applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500.00
- The second standard applies if an obligor’s net monthly income exceeds $7,500.00.
If the obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500, then the court will look at the number of children in the household.
A different calculation applies if an obligor has children in two separate households.
Texas Family Code Section 154.123 explains how child support is calculated. To determine if it applies, the court must consider:
- The child’s age and requirements; the parents’ capacity to help
- The child’s financial resources
- Custody and access to a kid for a certain period
- A rise in or reduction in income of the obligee or income attributable to the obligee’s property and assets
- Child care costs spent by either parent to keep a job
- Any other kid in either party’s care
- The alimony or spousal support a party is paying or receiving;
- Obligor or obligee has a car, housing, or other perks provided by their job or corporate organization.
- Special educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or the child
- The cost of travel to exercise possession of and access to a child
- Positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including real estate, personal property, and business interests.
- Given the preceding conditions and circumstances, the court may decide that a higher child support payment is in the child’s best interest.
Texas child support laws provide the following Guideline calculations:
- one child= 20% of Net Monthly Income
- two children = 25% of Net Monthly Income
- three children = 30% of Net Monthly Income
- four children = 35% of Net Monthly Income
- five children = 40% of Net Monthly Income
- six children = no less than 40% of Net Monthly Income.
If the noncustodial parent’s net monthly resources are less than $1,000, each percentage is reduced by five percentage points, ranging from 15% to 35%.
If the obligor’s net monthly income is more than $7,500.00, then the court will apply the same calculations as above to the first $7,500.00 of net monthly income.
For a simple estimate of child support in your case, you can use the online Monthly Child Support Calculator provided by the Texas Office of the Attorney General.
In addition to the child support amount determined by the guidelines, parents must also cover the child’s health insurance.
When the noncustodial parent has net monthly resources above $9,200 a month, the judge may increase the amount of support, depending on both parents’ incomes and the child’s needs.
Conversely, unemployed parents are still required to pay child support.
Noncustodial parents who are employed might have the child support payments directly deducted from their paycheck. Payments can be submitted by check or money order to the State Disbursement Unit, or parents can make the support payments online.
Read More: How To File For Divorce in Texas
Factors that May Impact Child Support
Texas calculates child support differently than other states.
Other states calculate child support based on the time the parent has possession of the child, who is paying for what expenses, and who has access to what resources (financial and otherwise).
Based on the overriding principle of standard visitation, Texas uses a formula for statutory child support based on the number of children a couple has together and the monthly net resources of the payor.
The court may determine that child support guidelines are unjust or inappropriate and may deviate if evidence shows that the “best interests” of the child justify a deviation.
According to Texas child support laws, the court can consider anything relevant, including several statutory factors. Appropriate circumstances can include:
- the age and needs of the child
- the parents’ ability to support the child
- the time the child spends with each parent
- whether either parent has custody of another child or is paying post-secondary educational expenses for a child
- the custodial parent’s net resources
- child care expenses
- alimony (spousal maintenance) that a parent is paying or receiving
- the cost of the child’s travel between the parents if they live far apart, and
- extraordinary expenses, such as for health care or education.
The judge must spell out why the guideline amount would be unfair or inappropriate in any child support order that varies from the guideline.
When a child requires “substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support,” and if the disability existed or was known to exist on or before that child’s 18th birthday, then it is possible to seek support for the disabled child from one or both parents for an indefinite period.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Child Support
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Texas?
The Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office handles child support matters in Texas.
You can apply for assistance online from the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office (OAG) or call the toll-free number (800) 252-8014.
Although the OAG cannot represent either parent in support matters, the OAG can ask a judge to make an order for child support, medical support, custody, and possession.
Read More: Divorce Laws in Texas
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
The quickest way is to apply online.
If you cannot apply online, you can request a physical application from the Child Support Division by calling (800) 252-8014 to receive a form in the mail.
In addition to child support, the OAG may be able to assist with securing payments for:
- Medical support (cost of health insurance, CHIP, Medicaid)
- Dental support (cost of dental insurance)
- Arrearages (past due or “back” child support)
- Retroactive child support (support from parents’ separation until orders are made by the court).
When you open a child support case in Texas, you’ll need to provide information about yourself and the other parent. Please provide as much information as you can. Some of the information you’ll need (if available) includes:
- Social Security number
- Driver’s License number
- Phone number
- Employment history
- Alternative contact information
- Attorney information (if you have one representing you)
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Texas courts will also order one or both parents to provide health insurance to the child. The court will look at numerous factors in considering who will pay for the cost of the child’s health.
The court will look at the cost and quality of health insurance and inquire whether coverage is available at a reasonable cost through one of the parties’ employers or membership in a union, trade association, or another source at a reasonable cost.
Unmarried fathers’ rights in Texas are dependent on legal identification as fathers. That gives them the same rights as married parents. Otherwise, their parental rights are denied.
First, an unmarried parent must legally demonstrate his fatherhood. It needs more than a birth certificate to do this. A paternity suit or an admission of paternity may prove paternity.
Unmarried couples in Texas must sign an admission of paternity form that:
- Are signed by both parents
- Identify the child’s assumed father or say that none exists
- Indicate that no other father has been adjudicated
- Include any genetic testing findings
A suspected father must sign a denial of paternity when the mother’s spouse is not the biological father.
If one parent refuses to sign the acknowledgment, the other parent might file a paternity action to prove fatherhood. As part of the action, the court may mandate genetic testing.
What is an Acknowledgment of Paternity?
An Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is a legal document that allows parents who aren’t married to establish legal paternity.
Both parents must work with an AOP-certified entity to complete and file an AOP. The Office of the Attorney General trains these experts to help parents voluntarily establish paternity.
If you need assistance completing an AOP or if the other parent is in the military, incarcerated, or living in a different city or state, call the AOP Hotline at (866) 255-2006 to request assistance.
What Does “Presumed Father” Mean?
A presumed father is a man to whom the mother is currently married, a man to whom the mother was married, and the marriage ended within 300 days before the child’s birth or a man who continuously lived with the child and represented himself as the child’s father the first two years of the child’s life.
Enforcing Child Support Orders
The Office of the Attorney General has several tools to enforce child support. These include:
License Suspension. The Office of the Attorney General works with over 60 licensing agencies and can request that these agencies suspend driver’s, professional, hunting, and fishing licenses if you fail to pay your child support.
Passport Denial. A noncustodial parent may be denied a new or renewed passport.
Liens. A lien may be filed on properties, bank accounts, retirement plans, life insurance plans, personal injury claims, insurance settlements or awards, and other assets.
Child Support Evaders. The OAG’s Child Support Evader Program seeks tips from the public to locate parents who are avoiding their court-ordered obligation to support their children. The OAG is required by Texas law to publicly identify those parents who are delinquent in paying child support and meet the conditions below.
- Court-ordered delinquent child support must be more than $5,000
- An arrest warrant has been issued
- The Noncustodial parent is avoiding apprehension
- There have not been any regularly made payments in the last six months
- The Non-custodial parent must not be involved in bankruptcy proceedings or receive TANF benefits.
- A confidentiality waiver must be signed by the Custodial parent, allowing certain case information to be made public
- A photograph must be available
Wage Withholding. This lets you make your child support payments through your regular paycheck. When the OAG receives employment information, the office sends a notification to the employer, and support payments are automatically held out of an obligor’s paycheck.
Employers send the payment directly to CSS, where it is processed and sent to the custodial parent.
Can I send child support payments directly to the custodial parent?
The law requires payments to pass through the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit (SDU) for a court order of child support. They are recorded before forwarding the payment to the custodial parent. Payments sent to the custodial parent are not automatically credited against the child support obligation and might even be considered a “gift.”
Can a Texas child support order be enforced in other states?
Every state is required to uphold the child support orders of another state. Depending on the country, it can also be enforced internationally.
Modifying Texas Child Support Payments
To modify child support, a parent must have evidence of a significant change in circumstances. That may be the case if a parent has lost their job, relocated internationally, or if the custody agreement itself has changed.
The obligor may also consult the OAG Child Support Division to consider a modification if the support order has been in place for at least three years and the existing support amount varies from the most recent child support guidelines by 20% or $100.
A judge will decide on a modification request based on the same legal requirements for an original child support order.
Parents can work out an agreement on a modification, but a judge must still conduct a hearing and review the agreement to decide whether it’s in the child’s best interests.
Parents can also request a modification without a court hearing through the OAG through the Child Support Review Process.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
Generally, the custodial parent provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support. However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years, claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
When Does Child Support End in Texas?
Texas child support laws require that the court “may order either or both parents to support a child” until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school (whichever occurs later), the child emancipates by marriage, and the disabilities of the child are removed, or the child dies.
However, if the child is deemed physically or mentally disabled by the court, the child may receive support indefinitely.
If a parent owes back child support (arrearages), payments will continue even after the child turns 18 until the debt plus interest is paid in full.