Courts must order child support payments from non-custodial parents after a divorce or separation. In addition, a non-custodial parent who did not share custody may owe child support from the child’s birth. State law establishes guidelines for child support orders and settlements, but it also gives courts flexibility to raise or extend child support payments when it serves the best interest of the child.
Determining Who Pays Child Support
Child custody arrangements determine which parent pays and receives child support. In all cases, the parent with primary conservatorship receives child support. Under Texas law, the primary conservator is the same as the primary custodial parent in other jurisdictions.
The other parent pays the child support because the child lives with the primary conservator. Because of this, that parent must pay the day-to-day living expenses for the child, including providing shelter, food, clothing, and other necessities. The child support represents the non-primary parent’s contribution to these expenses.
A few situations exist where the non-primary parent has no responsibility for child support. These include when the other parent is incapacitated or unable to earn an income for a legitimate reason, where paternity has never been legally established, or the child has reached adulthood, and the statute of limitations on back child support have run.
When Is Back Child Support Due?
When a non-custodial parent becomes responsible for child support depends on the situation. For example, when couples divorce, the courts assume paternity unless the kids are step-children. Therefore, the court will determine when child support payments must begin. Alternatively, couples can negotiate child support payments through out-of-court settlements or mediation.
Non-custodial parents in divorce can avoid owing back child support by starting payments on the date specified in the court order or settlement. Child support begins only when the couple separates because the non-custodial parent is presumed to have contributed to the child’s needs throughout the marriage.
Unmarried, non-custodial parents may owe child support back to the child’s birth, even if that parent was unaware of the child. Once the custodial parent has proven paternity, the court will calculate back child support to the child’s birth and order it paid.
This differs from when an unmarried couple shares custody and then separates. For instance, an unmarried couple cohabited and shared custody before ending their relationship. In that case, the calculation of back child support may start at a different date.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
Texas law uses a flat percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. Therefore, the relative income of each parent has no bearing on the amount as it does in some other states.
Texas law requires non-custodial parents to pay a minimum of 20% of net income for one child. Net income is defined as the parent’s income minus federal and state taxes and health insurance premiums for the child.
For each additional child from the same relationship, the non-custodial parent must pay an additional 5% of net income to a maximum of 40%. The amount per child may be lowered in cases where a non-custodial parent has children with multiple former partners. The idea here is to leave enough money after child support for the obligor to afford the cost of living.
The percentages of net income established by Texas Law are minimums. They are, in fact, a guideline rather than a mandate. As such, courts can order the non-custodial parent to pay more than the minimum. This usually occurs when the child is in need of additional support.
For instance, a child with cancer may need additional child support for medical costs. The prohibitive costs of fighting the case may be beyond the means of the custodial parent, even when the other parent is paying the minimum child support requirement. In that case, the court may order an additional monthly amount for medical care.
When Does Child Support End?
Texas law ends child support when the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is later. However, as with child support amounts, this represents a guideline. Courts can order extended payments, and divorce decrees and other child support agreements may stipulate a later termination date. For example, a couple may agree that support should continue until the child graduates college.
Courts can also order child support for individuals past 18 for special needs. For example, a disabled child may be unable to achieve financial independence. In that case, child support can be extended to meet these special needs.
Child support is a fact of life for parents who no longer share custody. Without it, the custodial parent would bear all the burden of the child’s day-to-day needs. In Texas, the law establishes a flat percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income for calculating child support. But this is a guideline. Ultimately, courts can increase child support amounts and length when needed to serve the child’s best interests.
It’s Time to Consult with a Knowledgeable Child Support Lawyer in Dallas, TX
Child support directly affects your ability to provide for your children in the best way possible, and this makes issues related to child support exceptionally important. A formidable Dallas child support lawyer at Aberdeen Family Law are committed to skillfully advocating for you and your children’s rights in pursuit of the child support to which you are entitled. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at (972) 914-3986 today.