Are you going through a divorce or preparing to file? Do you want to know your rights or obligations regarding child support? If so, contact our child support lawyers in Austin now. We can advise you of your options and how to manage this complex issue.
Negotiating child support is often a stressful part of divorce proceedings. Disputes can arise that lead to costly and time-consuming legal battles. You should not proceed without legal representation, whether you’re seeking child support or your spouse wants you to pay.
Smith Family Law can determine whether you should receive child support and calculate the appropriate amount. Call us today at 512-714-2877 for a free consultation with a child support lawyer in Austin.
Deciding Which Parent Should Pay Child Support
In Texas, conservatorship often determines which parent must pay child support to the other parent. The noncustodial parent (the parent with whom the child does not primarily reside) typically provides financial support. However, a judge can order both parents to support their child under specific circumstances.
The custodial parent the child primarily lives with isn’t necessarily off the hook if a judge orders the noncustodial parent to provide child support. The law assumes a custodial parent will spend their money to cover the daily expenses of raising a child.
Child Support Guidelines in Texas
Texas Family Code 154.061 provides the guideline the courts can use to determine the payment amount for child support. The financial obligation of the paying parent depends on their net income. However, the calculation becomes complicated if the court decides deviating from the guideline is necessary and appropriate.
To establish a parent’s net income for child support, you must first calculate their gross income. Gross income includes:
- Interest and dividends
- All salary and wages, including commissions, tips, bonuses, military pay, and overtime
- Net rental income from property owned by the parent
- Self-employment income
After determining the parent’s total gross income, you subtract these costs to calculate their net resources:
- Dental and health insurance premiums and other healthcare expenses for the child or children ordered by the judge to pay
- Social Security taxes or mandatory retirement plan contributions, if any, if the parent doesn’t pay Social Security taxes
- Union dues
- Federal income tax, based on the tax rate a single person who claims one exemption and the standard deduction would pay
- State income tax
The supporting parent could take a credit for child support payments if they have an obligation for a child or children from a previous relationship.
Once you determine the parent’s net resources, take one-twelfth to get their net monthly income. Then multiply it by a percentage based on the number of children included in the child support obligation. These percentages are:
- 20% for one child
- 25% for two children
- 30% for three children
- 35% for four children
- 40% for five children
- At least the same amount as five children if there are six children or more
Each percentage gets reduced by five percent if the paying parent’s net monthly resources are less than $1,000. A judge can decide to increase the child support payment depending on the child’s needs and each parent’s income if the net monthly resources exceed a specific number.
How Child Support Works for an Unemployed Parent
An employed parent expected to provide child support might have an income they can use to pay from sources such as:
- Retirement benefits
- Severance pay
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Disability benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Veterans’ benefits
A judge can also take an asset the parent owns that doesn’t produce income, such as a second house, and assign an income value. For example, the paying parent might inherit property they can sell so the proceeds can go toward financially supporting their child. The judge might consider the market value of the property as income.
A judge might calculate a parent’s income based on what they should make if the parent voluntarily quits their job or purposely earns less income than they’re capable of earning to try to avoid paying child support.
Factors Contributing to a Lower or Higher Payment
Sometimes, a judge will order the parent to pay higher or lower amounts than the child support guideline requires. When that happens, it must be because using the guideline would be inappropriate or unjust.
The judge must determine whether deviating from the guideline would be in the best interests of the child. They must also consider relevant factors that might include:
- The time each parent spends with the child
- The cost of traveling between the parents’ homes with the child if they live far away from each other
- Whether either parent pays post-secondary educational expenses for a child or has custody of another child
- The child’s needs and age
- The custodial parent’s net resources
- Childcare expenses
- Extraordinary expenses such as education or medical care
- Spousal maintenance a parent receives or pays
- Both parents’ ability to support the child
When a judge doesn’t refer to the child support guideline while deciding on the payment amount, they must clearly state the reason the guideline amount would be unjust or inappropriate.
Modifying a Child Support Order in Texas
You can request to modify a current child support order if there is anything you want to change. However, you must prove that a substantial change in circumstances requires the modification or affects your ability to pay. The judge will review your request and consider the factors used to determine whether to order child support.
You and your spouse can negotiate to change the terms of the child support agreement. You must attend a court hearing even if you agree to the modification. A judge must review your proposed agreement and decide whether it’s in your child’s best interests.
Protect Your Rights with a Dedicated Child Support Lawyer in Austin
At Smith Family Law, we understand how overwhelming it can be to negotiate child support with a spouse. We are here to guide you during each step and provide the assistance you need to overcome this challenging ordeal. You can depend on our legal team of experienced child support lawyers in Austin to protect your rights and fight for what you deserve.