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Texas Divorce Issues: Child Support
Child support is a monthly payment that is made to the custodial parent (the parent who has primary custody) for the benefit of the child(ren) born during the marriage. Both parents actually provide financial support for the child(ren), but the parent with whom the child(ren) spend less time must provide child support to the other parent to use for the support of the child(ren). No parent can decide to waive child support, as the support is not the parent’s to waive. This means that even if the parents agree that there will be no child support paid, the court can reject that agreement if it finds it is not in the best interest of the child(ren). (Exceptions to this exist if, for example, the children spend an equal amount of time with each parent, and the parents earn the same amount of money.)
The amount of support to be paid is based on the Texas Child Support Guidelines. Generally speaking, the monthly child support amount will be 20% of the noncustodial parent’s monthly net income (the amount after taxes have been taken out) if there is one child, 25% if there are two children, 30 % for three children, and so on. However, no person can be ordered to pay more than 50% of his or her monthly income. These percentages are slightly lower in the event that the noncustodial parent has other children outside of the marriage for whom he or she must also provide support.
In addition to the monthly child support amount, the noncustodial typically must also pay for the health insurance for the child(ren), and must pay for half of any reasonable medical expenses not paid for by insurance.
Who pays child support when the child(ren) spend equal time with each parent?
If the children spend equal time with each parent, then it is possible that no support or an amount less than the amount provided for in the Texas Child Support Guidelines will be paid. However, if the parents’ incomes are significantly different (one earns far more than the other), then the one earning more may be ordered to pay some amount of support to the other.
Until when is child support paid?Child support is typically paid until a child turns eighteen or until he or she graduates high school, whichever occurs later. Child support could be paid longer if, for example, a child has special needs.
Can the amount of child support be changed?
The amount of child support can be modified by agreement or by the court. Even if the change is by agreement, a new court order must be signed by the judge before it is valid.
When does one start paying child support?
Your divorce decree will state the date on which the first child support payment is due, typically the 1st day of the month after the decree is signed. However, once you begin living in separate households you should begin paying support to the custodial parent, otherwise the court could order “back child support” to be paid. Back child support is a lump sum of child support for all of the months a noncustodial parent did not make child support payments.
Can the support be taken out of the non-primary parent’s pay check?
Yes. In Texas, it is required that when the Final Decree of Divorce is signed, a separate “Wage Withholding Order” must also be signed. This is an order of the court that requires any employer of the party ordered to pay support to take the child support out of the employee’s pay check. The employer must then send the money to the state who will then mail it to the custodial parent.
Can I pay my child support directly to the other parent?
No. All child support payments must be sent to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, who will then remit payment to the custodial parent. Your divorce decree will state the address and information regarding payments of child support.
What happens if one does not pay child support?
Failure to pay child support is a serious matter. Failure to pay could result in several different things:
- The non-paying parent could be held in contempt of court;
- The non-paying parent’s driver’s license could be suspended;
- IRS Refund checks and/or funds in the account of the non-paying parent could be seized;
- The non-paying parent could be sent to jail.