The state of Texas has a lot to say about how child support should be managed. Because of that, every child support agreement has to be reviewed and passed by a judge, and that can make things complicated. To help, a quick breakdown of Texas child support laws can help you know what to expect and how these things tend to go. As you read, keep in mind that the law never fits into a neat little box, and a court can make specific rulings that are unique to the case in question.
One of the first steps in determining child support is figuring out the duration. In general, this duration will extend until the child turns 18 or graduates high school — whichever comes last. In cases with disabilities or extenuating circumstances (such as emancipation), the courts can shorten or lengthen the duration of child support indefinitely.
Courts have a set of “guidelines” which are legislative rules for determining the amount for payments in a child support case. As the name suggests, these guidelines do not have to be followed with absolute precision in every case. The courts have leeway to alter child support payments depending on a particular case.
The guidelines specify how much of monthly net income should be appropriated for child support. The standard is to assign 20% of monthly net income to pay for a single child. If there are two children, the number rises to 25%. Additional children will raise the guideline payment by 5% up to a total of 40% of net income. If there are more than six children, the courts will assign payments on a case-by-case basis.
A second guideline assesses the amount of money the obligor (person who must pay child support) makes. For monthly income above $7,500, the standard payment is only based on the first $7,500 made. Money over that amount will not be considered for child support payments unless a case can be made that the child needs support above that threshold.
While the guidelines set the standards, things can deviate far from the guidelines. A court can decide that a child needs more than the standard support. They can also decide that an obligee (person who gets paid child support) cannot reasonably need the normal payment and lower it (although this happens less often). The guiding principle is that the court is to do what is in the best interests of the child over the parent.
Determining Net Income
In Texas child support court rulings, deductions are not as abundant as in standard tax law. The standard totals that will be deducted from gross income are social security taxes, federal income tax, state income tax (which can include local income taxes), union dues, and the child’s health insurance. Typically speaking, no other deductions are eligible, and this will leave the net income that is used to calculate the base level for child support payments.
It’s important to understand that Texas does not recognize the right of parents to settle child support claims out of court. Pre-arranged agreements can and will be thrown out if the court deems that they fail to provide the best outcome for the child(ren). Typically, courts will rule against payment agreements that amount to less than the minimum outlined in the state guidelines.
Those are the basic elements of child support laws in Texas. More intricate laws can be applied to abnormal circumstances. If you’re worried about payments or a day in court, a little legal advice can go a long way. Setzer Law Firm can help you prepare for custody court and help you navigate the sometimes complex landscape of child support. Give us a call for a consultation to make sure you’re getting the best chance to get a fair deal.