Child support is often a very difficult and contentious matter. Parents who are going through a divorce will often use child support as a weapon against their former spouse and will attempt to punish the other parent through child support hearings. The burdensome nature of unreasonable child support payments can cause stress and resentment that only makes more trouble in an already strained relationship. This is not what child support was meant to do.
Rather, child support was and is intended as a means of ensuring that a child or children will continue to be financially supported after the dissolution of marriage or a relationship. Child support arrangements are determined based on a number of factors, such as the monthly net income of both parents, the number of children to be supported, and any number of special circumstances which may affect the livelihood of the children.
Child support payments are not a one size fits all payment, and each child support proceeding is different. At The Queenan Law Firm, our Dallas child support attorneys can have a dramatic impact on your child welfare case as well as your family. Call today for a confidential consultation at (817) 476-1797.
Who is Required to Pay Child Support in Dallas, TX?
In Dallas, Texas, all parents have a responsibility to care for their children’s financial needs and wellbeing. This obligation continues even if the marriage or relationship ends in a divorce. While either parent may be required to pay child support generally the family courts in Texas will issue an order requiring the parent who does not have primary physical custody to pay child support for the child or children. While it is generally very easy for a court to determine who will pay child support based on who has custody of the child, the court will also take other factors into consideration as set forth in the Texas Family Code. Some of the factors the court will consider when they are determining not only who will pay child support but how much include:
- The child’s age
- The child’s financial needs
- The parent’s ability to financially support the child
- Any financial resources that are available to support the child
- The amount of time each parent spends with the child.
- The cost of child care expenses incurred by each parent
- Whether either parent has physical custody of another child
- The amount of alimony or spousal supports a parent is being paid or receiving.
The central theme in the Texas family law system when it comes to children is always “the best interests of the child,” and even in matters of child support the best interests of the child need to be accounted for.
How Is the Value of Child Support Determined in Texas?
In order to make a determination on child support payment value, a Texas court is obligated to use established guidelines. These guidelines account for two key elements: the number of children being supported and the net income level of the obligated parent (the “obligor”).
Texas Guidelines for Determining Child Support Value
Below is a summary of the guideline by which courts determine a baseline for child support payments in Texas:
- One child = 20% of obligor’s average net monthly income
- Two children = 25% of obligor’s average net monthly income
- Three children = 30% of obligor’s average net monthly income
- Four children = 35% of obligor’s average net monthly income
- Five children = 40% of obligor’s average net monthly income
- Six or more children = at least 40% of obligor’s average net monthly income
The obligor’s net monthly income is determined by totaling all common streams of revenue and deducting certain amounts based on pre-realization factors. In other words, a court will add up all the money that the obligated parent typically makes in a month, and then subtract losses that they can’t control. Types of income that will be included include paychecks, shareholder distributions, and pension benefits. The court will deduct the total amount paid per month toward obligations such as state and federal income taxes, Social Security payments, and labor union membership dues.
Deviations from Texas Child Support Guidelines
Keep in mind that this formula only serves to create a baseline upon which the court will rely in making a determination. This flexibility allows for a court to account for subjective factors that may materially influence the financial requirements of caring for the child or children in question.
Circumstances where child support will often exceed the amount indicated by the baseline calculation include the following:
- The child has a physical or mental condition that requires extensive care or supervision.
- The child was previously engaged in extracurricular activities that will require additional funds to sustain.
- The child was previously enrolled in private school and intends to remain enrolled.
- The custodial spouse bears the cost of extensive travel necessary to comply with visitation arrangements.
- The non-custodial spouse has other children under the age of 18 from outside the marriage.
Child support value may also drop below the guidelines in certain circumstances. Factors that may give rise to a decrease in child support from the provided baseline include:
- The age of the child or children
- Remarriage of either spouse
- Relative ability of either spouse to contribute to financial and physical support of child
How Long Do You Have to Pay Child Support?
Parents often wonder how long they will have to pay child support in Dallas and often have questions about certain events in a child’s life and how it may impact their obligation to pay child support.
In Texas, a general rule to follow is that a parent is expected to provide for their child financially until the child turns eighteen years old, or when they graduate from high school, taking into account that some students turn eighteen while they are in high school. However, a parent who has a child with special needs may be obligated to continue making child support payments after the child turns eighteen years old, and depending on the severity of the child’s condition a parent may be expected to provide for their child financially for the duration of the child’s life. However, in the event that the child dies, marries, or is legally emancipated, meaning they are declared an adult, a parent who has been ordered to pay child support may be relieved of their duty to provide for their child financially.
Can You Modify Child Support Payments in Texas?
While child support payments are designed to ensure that a child is cared for financially until they reach an age where they can provide for themselves, there are many events in a parent’s life that can affect their ability to pay child support. Child support payments may be increased or decreased if there has been a substantial change in circumstances of the parents or the needs of the child. Child support can also be modified if it has been at least three years since the last child support order and the new amount calculated under the child support guidelines differ by either 20% or $100.00 from the amount of support currently ordered.
Either parent who is making or receiving child support payments can file for a modification which in effect looks at the parent’s new situation to determine if the current child support payments are sufficient and in congruence with the expectations set forth in the Texas Family Law Code.
If both parents mutually recognize that a modification to the child support payment arrangement is warranted, it is not necessary to go through the process of appealing a previous order. Instead, you may wish to adjust the child support payment value through signing a separate agreement. To effectively, legally modify the original child support obligation, both parents must sign a contract to that effect and submit a copy of the signed document to the original court for approval. Once the court signs off on the adjustments, the agreement goes into effect.
Modification agreements can be most beneficial in instances where child support payments are complicated by the expenses that ex-spouses may face. For example, adjustments can be made so that portions of child support may be paid directly to landlords or debtors for the sake of convenience.
Our Dallas child support lawyers can examine your circumstances and provide you with every option available to you for modifying child support in Texas.
Call Our Dallas Child Support Attorneys Today for a Confidential Consultation
To set up a legal consultation with a Dallas child support lawyer about your family law matter, call the Queenan Law Firm at (817) 476-1797. With more than 20 years of legal experience representing mothers and fathers throughout the Dallas area, our attorneys are always eager to put our knowledge and skill to work for you.