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Texas Divorce 101: Child Support

When children are involved in a family law case, there are often many questions about child support. Who pays? How much? When does it start? When does it end? What is the payment process?

This post is designed to answer those questions and provide a basic understanding of some considerations that are helpful to keep in mind when deciding what type of child support arrangement makes sense for you and your ex.

Child Support Payments: Who Pays?

In a divorce, it’s common for both parents to agree to split the costs of raising children. However, there are situations where one parent ends up paying child support, while the other does not. In fact, some states don’t require fathers to pay child support at all.

The Texas Family Code does say that courts are required to consider the best interest of the child when determining whether to order payments. But this doesn’t mean that the court must make the payment. Instead, the court may choose to order either or both parents to support a child.

How Much? Determining the Right Level for Child Support

The Texas Family Code lays out the guidelines for determining child custody and visitation arrangements in addition to child support. In many cases, parents agree to a set amount of money per month for child support. This is called "court-ordered" child support. If you cannot reach an agreement, either parent can ask the court to make a determination about what the appropriate level of child support should be.

Child support is calculated differently depending on whether it is court-ordered or voluntarily agreed upon. Court-ordered child support is typically paid directly into the state's registry. Voluntary child support is usually paid directly to the custodial parent.

Court-ordered child support is generally based on the obligor’s gross income minus federal taxes, Social Security benefits, and certain deductions. However, there are exceptions. For example, if the obligor receives $10,000 annually in rental property income and rents out one unit for $1,500, he or she could owe $4,500 in child support even though his or her annual income is less than $15,000.

Voluntary child support is usually based on the obligor earning 40% of his or her pre-tax earnings. There are some exceptions. For example, the obligor might earn $50,000 per year working full-time and receive $20,000 in overtime pay each year. He or she might also have a spouse who earns $30,000 per year and contribute half of his or her salary toward childcare expenses. Under those circumstances, the obligor would still owe 25% of his or her income ($12,500).

When Does Disbursement of Child Support Start? When Does It End?

Child support disbursements begin on the start date designated by the Final Decree of divorce, which indicates the final terms of the divorce. This includes the amount of money paid each month, the number of months for which payment is required, the manner in which the payment is to be made, and whether there are any conditions attached to the payment. Once the decree becomes final, the court clerk sends out a notice to both parties informing them that the payment schedule has been set.

If temporary orders are entered to address issues such as visitation, custody, parenting plans, and property division, it is likely that the interim child support will be determined during the pendency of proceedings. Interim child support is typically ordered by the court until a final judgment is rendered and permanent child support is established.

In those cases, the start date for interim support will be designated in the Temporary Orders and the interim support will end once the Final Decree of dissolution is signed by the judge. Unless otherwise specified in the temporary orders, the interim support ends at the same time the permanent child support starts.

An obligation to pay child support terminates when one of the following events occurs:

  1. A party dies;
  2. The minor child reaches the age of 18;
  3. The parent receives a legal document indicating that he/she is no longer obligated to make payments;
What Is the Child Support Payments Process Like?

Child support payments are a complicated process. They're based on how much money you make, what type of work you do, and whether you pay taxes or receive benefits. You might even have to file paperwork with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts just to prove income.

Once the court issues an IWO, employers must begin withholding the appropriate amount from their paycheck. The withheld funds go directly into the hands of the state disbursement units (SDUs), where they are deposited into accounts set up specifically for child support payments.

The SDUs can dispense the funds to either party, depending on the terms of the child support agreement. If there is no agreement regarding child support payments, the SDU will distribute the funds according to the guidelines set out by the Texas Family Code.

Additional Considerations Concerning Texas Child Support

Child support is one of the most complicated issues facing parents today. In addition to determining how much money each parent will pay to the children, there are several other considerations that must be addressed. These concerns include insurance, visitation laws and regulations, and additional coverage for childcare expenses and miscellaneous costs.

If you live in Texas, you are required to maintain health insurance for your children. If you do not provide health insurance, your ex might be able to garnish wages to collect medical bills. This could lead to a wage assignment, which requires you to send your paycheck directly to the court where it is held pending a hearing. You will be responsible for paying child support even if you cannot afford to. However, if you meet certain requirements, such as being gainfully employed, you may qualify for public assistance programs.

Visitation Laws
In Texas, courts decide custody cases based on the best interest of the child. Therefore, the amount of visitation awarded to either parent is determined by the judge. Visitation schedules are usually set up during the divorce proceedings. If the parties cannot agree on visitation arrangements, mediation is often used.

Additional Coverage for Child Care Expenses
You may be required to pay extra childcare fees if your spouse works outside of the home. The court determines whether or not you will be required to pay for childcare expenses. If you work full-time, you may be expected to contribute 50% of your monthly income towards child care. If you work part-time, you may be required to pay 25%.

Our Expert Texas Child Support Attorneys Can Help You

An experienced lawyer in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, can help you with your case. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.

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