A brief overview of child support in Texas

All parents in Texas have the legal duty to provide for their children, so if you're divorcing and you have children, child support will likely be an issue in your divorce case. Generally, child support is a percentage of income based on the number of children subject to the divorce; however, there are certain requirements the court may consider in the calculation.

In Texas, like other states, the child custody agreement or order influences the child support order. The parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child will likely pay child support. The Texas legislature has issued guidelines that reflect income percentages to help family court judges determine child support. Since the rules are guidelines, the judge who issues the child support order has broad discretion to determine an amount that is in the best interests of the child.

For a parent with no other children outside of the proceedings before the court, the percentage of net resources a parent is expect to provide is the following:

  • 20 percent for one child
  • 25 percent for two children
  • 30 percent for three children
  • 35 percent for four children
  • 40 percent for five children
  • Not less than 40 percent for 6 or more children

The percentages are slightly lower if the parent has a child or children outside of the proceedings before the court. The guideline percentages are based on all of the paying parent's financial resources, including wages and salary, interest income, rental income, unemployment benefits, and other sources of income. The child support amount under the guidelines can be calculated by first determining the average monthly gross income of the paying parent by dividing the paying parent's annual gross income by 12. The percentage is then applied to the monthly gross income amount to determine the monthly child support amount.

The court can require the parties to provide information about income and resources to determine monthly gross income. In addition, the court may also consider certain factors if the amount determined under the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust. The factors among others the court may use include:

  • The needs and age of the child
  • The parent's ability to contribute to the child's support
  • Any financial resources available for child support
  • The amount of alimony
  • Whether either party has actual physical custody of another child
  • The child's educational expenses
  • Health insurance and uninsured medical expenses for the child

If a paying parent is unemployed and the court cannot determine the parent's income, the court is allowed to calculate the parent's gross income based on federal minimum wage for a 40 hour work week. If a parent is purposefully not employed, the court may establish an amount based on the parent's ability to earn.

Parents are also allowed to make their own agreement for child support; however, the court must find that the agreement is in the best interest of the child. If the parents' agreement is not in the child's best interest, the court may ask the parents to revise the agreement or the court may create its own order.

If you are contemplating divorce and have children, contact an experienced family law attorney who can review your case and help craft a divorce order favorable to you and your child's circumstances.