Going through a divorce is one of life’s most emotionally traumatic experiences, and it is especially heart-rending when children are involved. Along with the difficult feelings comes uncertainty about the future, particularly your financial security. Raising a child is an expensive proposition, and you want to make sure that the amount of child support you pay or receive is both appropriate and fair. At The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart, one of the questions that we are commonly asked is, “who will determine my child support, and how?”
Wendy L. Hart is uniquely qualified to help you navigate the child support determination process. Since 2001, she has been compassionately guiding Texas residents through often tricky family law matters. Based on the Texas Family Code, here is some information that will help you get a feeling for how the number of payments are determined and who is involved in that process.
Who is Responsible for Deciding the Amount of Child Support Payments?
Attorneys for both sides of a divorce can present their client’s arguments to the court, but at the end of the day, the amount that the court will order is up to the discretion of the judge assigned to your case. The Texas Family Code does provide some fairly specific guidelines for judges, but the overarching principle is that the welfare of the child must be protected. Texas Family Law Court judges can, and will, modify payments to amounts different from the guidelines if they believe those changes are in the best interest of the child.
Since the judge in your case is ultimately responsible for determining the value of any payments, it is critical that you not attempt to go through this process alone. An experienced Texas divorce attorney can help you present the complete case possible so that the judge can reach the fair decision.
How much will the Child Support Payments Be?
While the judge is responsible for determining the amount that will be paid, there are specific guidelines in the Texas Family Code that will function as a starting point for his or her decision-making process. There are three general steps in applying the guidelines to determine payments:
1. The available net income of the paying party, who is also known as the obligor. The obligor is typically the non-custodial parent.
2. The percentage of that net income that should be devoted to payments, according to the Texas Family Code guidelines.
3. Whether or not other factors exist that would warrant deviation from those guidelines.
When calculating child support, net income is any amount money that the obligor receives, less the value of taxes, union dues, non-discretionary retirement plan contributions, and payments on health insurance for the child.
Unless the judge in your case decides that another amount is appropriate, the amount owed will be equal to:
- 20% of the obligor’s net income for one child,
- 25% of the obligor’s net income for two children,
- 30% of the obligor’s net income for three children,
- 35% of the obligor’s net income for four children,
- 40% of the obligor’s net income for five children,
- Not less than 40% of the obligor’s net income for six or more children.
The net income available for computing child support is currently capped at $8,550. However, if that amount is insufficient to meet a child’s needs, a Texas Family Court judge can adjust to a value higher than the statutory caps. Additionally, the level of the cap is adjusted to account for inflation every six years. The last time that the cap was adjusted was in 2013, so if you receive payments from a high-wage earning obligor, you may want to take another look at your payment amounts in 2019 with the help of your attorney.
What Factors can cause a Judge to consider Adjusting the Child Support Amount?
There is a multitude of situations that allows a judge to adjust the amount paid, according to the Texas Family Code. Those factors include:
- The age and unique needs of the child
- The child’s educational expenses
- The child’s health insurance and uninsured medical expenses
- Extraordinary educational, healthcare or other expenses of the child or parent
- Other resources available
- Whether a parent has conservatorship or possession of another child
- Each parent’s period of possession of the child
- Child care expenses
- Travel costs due visitation
- The net resources and earning potential of the parent receiving the payments
- Any spousal maintenance received or paid
- Additional cash flow from real or personal property, and assets like businesses or investments
- Debts assumed by either parent
- Any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child
When making a determination, a judge cannot consider any history of additional payments that have been made over a court-ordered amount, the sex of either the parents or the child, or the marital status of either party to the arrangement.
The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart
Wendy L. Hart knows that divorce is one of life’s most trying experiences. As one of the Fort Worth area’s most experienced divorce lawyers, Wendy is dedicated to providing her clients with the facts that they need to make informed decisions. She zealously defends the rights of her clients and prides herself on her ability to shepherd people experiencing a divorce in Texas through the emotionally tumultuous process. If you have questions regarding divorce or conservatorship in Texas, reach The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart through our website or by calling (817) 842-2336.