Sometimes it may not be obvious about what child support covers – what that payment should be used for. Parents who end their relationship must also ensure that their children are still properly cared for as if they were still living together. Part of that is financially supporting their children by paying child support if required to the other parent.
Part of ending a relationship with children often means that one spouse has physical custody meaning the child lives with one parent primarily. If that parent makes less income than the other, the non custodial parent can help to provide for their children by making their child support payment on time and consistently.
The court generally formalizes that need by ordering the non-custodial parent to make payments to the other parent. In most cases, child support is a monthly payment. Child support is outlined in final judgement paperwork in divorce cases or in the case of unmarried couples, in their custody and visitation order.
What Is Child Support?
The term “child support” means exactly that—funds from one parent given to the other to ensure that the children have what they need. In most cases, the parent who does not have custody makes these payments to the parent who does. The custodial parent has discretion over how the funds are used for the child’s benefit, as long as the child is not being neglected.
Texas’ guidelines for child support are intended to be a minimum threshold to provide for a child’s basic needs. Child support amounts are determined by the Texas Family Code and are based on the income of both parents.
What It Covers
As a rule, child support covers food, shelter, education (at the public school level) medical and dental care, insurance deductibles for care, and other needs. This ensures that both parents are held equally financially responsible for the child’s needs and that the child doesn’t suffer because of the divorce.
Child support can also be used to cover travel expenses, cell phone bills, and other entertainment. Because child support is intended to give the child roughly the same standard of living he or she enjoyed prior to the divorce, these expenses may be included, if there is enough.
Child support can be used for a child’s medical and dental expenses, known as “medical child support.” This can be used to pay for medical or dental insurance or take the form of additional cash support separate from child support. Coverage paid by a parent is in addition to regular child support payments.
A parent may be required to pay for a child’s medical and dental insurance coverage. If the child goes onto Medicaid, that parent will be responsible for reimbursing the State of Texas for that care.
Courts usually order “temporary child support” prior to the end of divorce. “Retroactive child support” is something that was not previously ordered by the court but may still be due. Child support generally lasts until a child turns 18. For a parent with multiple children, the support ends for each individual child on their 18th birthday.
What Child Support Doesn’t Cover
Child support is not for extras: extracurricular activities, college or private school tuition, and other “extras” that aren’t essential to the child’s well-being. These non-essentials can be discussed, and the cost-sharing put into writing.
Because Texas law doesn’t specify how child support should be used, it’s difficult to know if the other parent is using the funds for that purpose. If the money is correctly used for the child’s benefit and the other parent is not misappropriating those funds, Texas does not restrict a parent from utilizing the child’s support as needed.
Get Help With Child Support And Other Family Law Matters
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney serving families throughout Tarrant County and the Fort Worth area. We represent both men and women in family law matters. Use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336 for an appointment.