What is Guideline Child Support?

Many of my clients think they know the “rules” as stated in the Texas Family Code for child support, but there are many nuances to the law. The guidelines serve to provide some uniformity to the amount of child support ordered. There is a presumption that this amount is in the best interest of the child. The code sets out percentages of net resources based on the number of children for which support is ordered. If you receive child support or have to pay support, you probably know that one child is 20%, two children is 25%, three children is 30% and so on.

What are net resources?

Net resources may be wages or salary from your job, or self employment pay, income from rental income, from commissions, overtime, tips, interest, dividends, royalty, severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, most social security benefits, most veteran’s benefits, unemployment benefits, disability and workman’s compensation benefits, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance and alimony. WHEW!!! The court can even consider “deemed income” from assets that do not yet produce income. Unless you are in jail, the court will presume you can work at least 40 hours per week at minimum wage, absent any other evidence of income. In addition, if the judge thinks you are capable of making more income and that your reduced income was intentional, income can be based on your earning potential. The judge will not include the income of your spouse or cohabitation partner in calculating your child support obligation. To determine net (as opposed to gross) resources, the court deducts the following from gross income: social security taxes, federal income tax withholding based on a single person claiming one exemption (which may be different than what is actually taken out on your paystub), state income tax (if any), union dues (if any) and expenses for health insurance for the child.

What if I have other children I have to support?

If you have a child with another person and have the obligation to support that child as well, the percentages referenced above will be reduced. For example, if you have one child with your ex-spouse and you have another child with your current partner, instead of owing 20% for the child with your ex-spouse, you will owe 17.5%. The code includes a chart defining these guidelines.

Can the judge consider anything else?

The court can consider other factors in ordering child support. The court may deviate from the guidelines when determined to be in the best interest of the child. The following factors, among others, can be considered:

  • age and needs of the child
  • ability of parents to contribute to the support of the child
  • financial resources available to contribute to the child’s needs
  • amount of time each parent spends with the child
  • net resources of the party receiving the support
  • child care expenses
  • custody of another child by either party
  • spousal maintenance paid or received by either party
  • college costs
  • cost of travel to exercise visitation with the child

Is there a cap to net resources?

The guidelines (including the application of the factors listed above) are presumed to apply to the paying parent’s net resources below $8550 per month. If the paying parent makes more than this amount, the judge will calculate the child support owed based on $8550, then determine whether there are specific proven needs of the child over this amount, and, if any, allocate them between the parties.

What about health insurance or Medical support?

In addition to the regular child support discussed above, the non-custodial parent will usually be ordered to provide health insurance or pay cash medical support for the purpose of providing health coverage for the child. In 2015, the legislature voted to include mandatory dental support as well as medical support, effective September 2018. Uncovered medical/dental expenses such as co-pays will be allocated between the parents, usually equally.

What happens if I don’t pay child support or provide health insurance?

Enforcement options for a person who is owed child support are complex and perhaps deserving of a separate article. Parents should certainly consider the services provided by the Attorney General (AG) of Texas for child support enforcement. The enforcement procedure is free of charge to the custodial parent. While the AG has a sizeable caseload and getting your hearing may not be quick, the remedies available, including contempt of court and jail, can be very persuasive to the person who owes support.