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Texas Child Support Issues

CHILD SUPPORT

The Texas Family Code contains guidelines for the computation of child support. The guidelines are specifically designed to apply to situations in which the obligor's monthly net resources are $7,500.00 or less. In such cases, the court presumptively applies the following schedule:

1 child - 20% of Obligor's Net Resources

2 children - 25% of Obligor's Net Resources

3 children - 30% of Obligor's Net Resources

4 children - 35% of Obligor's Net Resources

5 children - 40% of Obligor's Net Resources

6 or more children - Not less than 40%

If the Obligor has children from another relationship(s), the percentages listed above may be reduced.

If the obligor's net resources exceed $7,500.00 per month, the Court shall presumptively apply the above percentages to the first $7,500.00 of net resources. Without further reference to the percentage, the court may order additional amounts of child support. The court may not order the obligor to pay more child support than the presumptive amount (as calculated by multiplying the above applicable percentage times $7,500.00) or an amount equal to 100% of the proven needs of the child, whichever is greater.

Net resources is defined very broadly, and income can also be imputed to a party.

In addition to monthly child support payments, the payor is required to maintain the children on the payor's employment health insurance policy. If insurance is not available through the payor's employment, but is available through the payee's employment, the payor will be ordered to pay the premium costs. If insurance is not available through either parties' employment, the payor will be ordered to provide insurance coverage to the extent available and affordable. The cost of the medical insurance is a deduction against a payor's net resources. Additionally, the Court usually makes orders regarding the payment of deductibles and other uninsured expenses. All Orders dealing with child support must now be accompanied by an Order of Withholding. Medical Support Orders are now commonplace. The Withholding order, after presented to the payor's employer, has the Court-ordered child support deducted directly from the payor's paychecks.

The court can also order Payor to secure life insurance to cover the amount of child support that will become due until the child support obligation would terminate, which can be up to 18+ years.

Absent marriage or other acts which would emancipate the child, child support orders continue until the child reaches age 18. If the child is in high school at age 18, support continues until high school graduation. If the child is disabled, it may be possible to continue child support for an indefinite period. Texas law makes no provision for support during college, or the payment of college expenses. However, this can be done by a contract between the parties if an agreement can be reached on this issue.

MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT AND CONSERVATORSHIP

All orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future. Either parent can petition the Court to change conservatorship (child custody), periods of possession, or child support at any time until the child is emancipated. The burden of proof are different in each case, and sometimes are very onerous. You should not enter into an agreement based on the assumption that it can always be modified later. You also should not enter into an agreement that you will pay no or a minimal amount of child support based on the assumption that a request for full child support will not be made later.

CAUTION: Informal agreements between the parties are not binding on the Court. If you rely on the agreement of your former spouse that you can pay a lesser amount of child support, you are likely to find yourself in contempt of court, as you have violated the Court's Order. If your former spouse agrees to give you primary possession of the children, and then demands return of the children several days later, you have no enforceable right to retain possession. If such agreements are reached, contact an attorney to have them reduced to the form of a court order.

ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT AND CONSERVATORSHIP

Orders relating to support and conservatorship of the children are enforceable by the Court. Sanctions for non-payment of child support or failure to comply with periods of possession include imprisonment.

CAUTION: Please remember that the duty to pay child support and the right to periods of possession with the child are independent concepts. If your spouse or former spouse does not allow you to see the children, you cannot refuse to pay child support. If your spouse or former spouse is not paying child support, you cannot refuse visitation rights with the children. Your remedy is to seek enforcement of the court order. If you violate the court order, your spouse can file an enforcement action against you. If you do not pay child support, the Court can order jail time, garnishment of wages, and other onerous punishments. If you refuse to allow visitation, there are civil and criminal remedies available to the other parent. Additionally, the child's parent could seek modification of the child custody arrangement to decrease your rights.

In most places, the Court orders that the child support be paid to a Child support Collection agency, who processed payments received and then forwards the payments on to the recipient of the payments. The universal collection agency is the Child Disbursement Unit in San Antonio. They collect the support and then distribute the payments received. This is the case even with Orders of Withholding. Be sure to know what the Judge of your court requires before presenting papers to finalize your case, as having the wrong agency or wrong payment method is a sure way to have the court NOT approve the papers and NOT sign the papers ending the case. Worse, you can be held accountable for not doing things the right way, and may even have to make some payments twice. So pay attention to the details!

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