Child support is not intended to be just “extra money” for the parent who has custody of a child. Rather, child support payments should be used to provide for your child after a separation or divorce. All too often, child support disputes arise about how much to pay and how to spend the money, and family relationships are strained as a result.
At The Queenan Law Firm, we are sensitive to the concerns of mothers, fathers, and families who need help with child support orders. We are committed to helping you and your family navigate the complex child support system in Arlington. Our goal is to provide you with exemplary legal guidance during this often difficult time. Call our Arlington, TX child support lawyers today at (817) 476-1797 to set up a confidential legal consultation.
Child Support Guidelines in Arlington, TX
Whenever two parents live separately – whether through divorce, separation, or other arrangements – there can be some kind of arrangement that the court can help put in place to dictate who will have custody and who will pay support. Usually, these arrangements will order one parent to pay the other a monthly child support amount – typically the parent who does not have full custody of the child.
Child support payments are a means for the court to ensure that the child’s needs are being met and that both parents are contributing financially to the child’s well-being. The court will determine how much a parent is required to pay by employing a formula based on the Texas child support guidelines. However, the court does have some latitude to deviate from the child support guidelines. As such, you should always consider working with an experienced child support attorney to discuss the specifics of these guidelines and how they may apply to your case.
Some people assume that child support payments are designed to punish the parent who pays them. To the contrary, child support payments are intended to ensure the proper care of the child. To do this, courts usually look at the funds necessary to support a child, basing the calculation on the parents’ incomes and what expenses they have to pay aside from child support. When looking at the payor’s other financial obligations, the courts can also include other child support payments so as to not overburden a parent with excessive support payments.
Calculating Child Support in Arlington, TX
Child support guidelines in Arlington start calculating the presumptive child support payment by looking at the parent’s average monthly gross income. Then, they reduce that to the parent’s net resources by subtracting out necessary payments. Finally, the court will consult a chart to determine how much of those net resources should go toward supporting the children under this order.
This chart uses a percentage of the net resources for the payor to calculate the amount they will use as the “presumptive” payment amount. For one child, the court starts at 20%. Remember that this is not 20% of their income, but rather 20% of what’s left over after necessary expenses. It is also presumed that some of the child’s time will be spent in the payor’s custody and that they will contribute some additional expenses at that time. It also assumes that the other parent will do the same when they have custody, so ultimately this doesn’t mean it takes 20% of your money to raise a child, but that 20% of your expendable income should go toward the support order.
For each additional child, the court adds 5% rather than doubling or tripling this payment amount. This makes sense, because things like “hand-me-down” clothes and shared resources usually do not justify doubling the amount paid per child.
The chart tops out at five children, which would get a presumptive amount of 40% of the net resources. The court can individually take into account how things work in a family with more than 5 children, but the presumptive amount should not be less than that 40%.
If the parent has other children they support, these percentages will usually change based on the number of children in this order and the number of children in other support orders.
The judge might adjust that presumptive child support payment up or down depending on many different factors. One factor that can greatly shift how much the court will award is how much time the parent spends with the child in their custody. The percentage that comes from the presumptive table might shift if the payor has custody for more than a certain share of the time.
The judge is free to examine a wide range of factors in reaching a final child support amount. However, the judge should always keep the child’s best interests at the center of any decision.
How Long Does a Parent Have to Pay Child Support in Arlington?
Generally, a parent who is ordered to pay child support will be expected to pay the custodial parent child support payments until the child reaches the age of 18. However, there are exceptions to this general rule, which should be discussed with an attorney.
If the child is enrolled in high school and turns 18 during the course of their education, a parent paying child support will usually still be obligated to continue making child support payments until the child graduates high school or otherwise leaves school.
Another large exception that might continue a payor’s obligations past the child’s 18th birthday comes up for children with special needs. If your child needs additional medical care or special accommodations, payments might continue into adulthood. Based on the individual circumstances, a parent may be expected to provide for their child’s financial needs indefinitely. In these cases, it is important to work closely with a family law attorney who can guide you through the delicate child support guidelines.
How to Terminate Child Support in Arlington, TX
While child support payments usually continue until the child turns 18 and graduates from high school, there are other ways to terminate child support early in some cases. According to the Texas Family Code §§ 154.006 and 154.002, the obligation to pay child support for a child can be terminated under certain conditions.
Grounds to End Child Support
Usually, a child’s support will end when the court considers them a full-fledged adult. Getting married is one way the court will see that they are no longer under the parent’s support, so that will allow you to end a support order. Similarly, if a child is “emancipated” – which essentially means they are declared an adult and “divorced” from their parents – a support order can be terminated, even if they are a minor. A child serving in the military is also seen as an adult, and that is grounds to file to terminate support as well.
Finding out that your child is not related to you is also grounds for terminating support. If genetic testing shows that your child is not your biological child, you can have support orders terminated. This should not apply to adopted children, who would not have been biologically related in the first place.
The child support order can also be terminated if the parents marry or remarry each other. Under these circumstances, the child is under the same roof with both parents, and there is no need to differentiate between who pays for what share anymore. As such, this allows the parents to end the support order, too. This cannot end the support order, however, if neither parent has physical custody. This could happen in cases where the parents have had the child placed in foster care or taken away from them, in which case they will both likely need to continue paying child support to a third-party conservator.
Lastly, a child support order can be terminated if the child passes away.
The Process for Ending Child Support
Child support orders do not end automatically in most cases. You usually need to go to court and file to have a child support order terminated before you can stop paying. Until a judge explicitly terminates the order, the payor is still on the hook and must still make all payments as required. Talk to a lawyer about terminating child support if you know that your child is turning 18, getting married, joining the military, or approaching one of these other events that might terminate child support.
Getting Child Support Reduced or Modified in Arlington
One of the most common reasons that a parent seeks the help of a child support lawyer is to fight to get excessive child support payments under control. If you were ordered to pay child support at a high level that you cannot afford, you might be entitled to get the payments reduced. Additionally, if you went through a life change such as loss of a job, remarriage, or a serious illness, you could be entitled to have the support payments reduced.
Since the initial child support obligation is determined by looking at your average monthly income, any changes to this could change the support calculation. For instance, if you lost your job and had to take a temporary position that pays only half your previous wages, you could be entitled to have the court recalculate your support obligation – which might end up changing the support amount by a significant amount. Similarly, if you take on additional monthly expenses such as additional medical bills for a disability or disabled child, your obligation might also be reduced.
As with termination of a child support order, you must file for modification of a child support order with the court. Until the court modifies the order, the old order is still in place. That means that any missed payments or payments not made in full could be held against you and lead to enforcement. Once the court officially modifies the child support order, you can begin paying the new, lower amount.
Parents who have custody of their children could also be entitled to an increase in child support payments. If you find out that the other parent got a higher paying job or has reduced other necessary expenses, you might be entitled to ask the court for more child support. Similarly, if your child develops a disability, you might need additional funds to cover increased care costs, which you might be able to receive by requesting a modification to your child support order.
Enforcing Child Support Orders in Arlington, TX
One of the other most common issues that parents turn to a child support lawyer for help with is enforcement. If the other parent was ordered to pay child support, the courts in Texas generally leave them to meet their obligation on their own unless there is a reason to step in and enforce payments. If the other parent has fallen behind on payments or refused to make required child support payments you might be entitled to go to court and have the court take steps to enforce the order.
To satisfy back payments, courts can often turn to wage garnishment. This allows the court to take a portion of the payor’s wages directly from their employer or their bank account to put toward the child support payments. You might also be entitled to go after other property to satisfy the back child support payments.
Courts and the Office of the Attorney General can also enforce child support orders in other ways by reporting missed payments to credit rating bureaus and having licenses suspended for driver’s licenses, hunting licenses, and professional licenses, among others. Non-payment can also result in denial of other government services and civil or criminal contempt proceedings. Civil contempt can mean being arrested and jailed until you agree to follow the court order, and criminal contempt can mean facing criminal fines and charges.
If your child’s other parent has taken steps to garnish your wages or seek other enforcement actions against you, you will likely need the help of an experienced Arlington child support lawyer to fight these potentially devastating financial effects.
Our Arlington, TX Child Support Attorneys Can Help
To set up a confidential legal consultation about your family law matter, call The Queenan Law Firm at (817) 476-1797. With more than 20 years of legal experience representing parents in child support disputes throughout the Arlington area, our attorneys are always eager to put our knowledge and skill to work for you.