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Child Support Calculation in Texas

Posted on in Child Support

When it comes to child support calculation, Texas is one of only several percentage-of-income states. Non-custodial parents pay a set percentage of their net income on a sliding scale according to the number of children before the court.

Nearly all other jurisdictions use an income share model. It attempts to give the children the same standard of living they would have enjoyed if the parents had remained married, by considering the income of both parents as well as the amount of parenting time of each party. Although this model may be somewhat more equitable – for example, it avoids the unusual result of an unemployed non-custodial parent paying child support to a wealthy custodial parent – the percentage-of-income model is easier to apply and leads to more predictable results.

The Law

Chapter 154 of the Family Code sets forth the law for child support allocation in a complex divorce. The scale begins at 20 percent for one child, and ends at 40 percent for five or more children. There are also rules for determining an obligor's net income, because only some deductions are allowable. This inquiry can become rather complicated if the obligor is self-employed or earns indirect income, such as the use of a company car or an employer-paid insurance plan.

Applying the Law

The judge does have discretion to deviate from the guideline amounts in some complex custody matters, if the default amount would be "unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances." A court can move the child support obligation either up or down based on a number of factors, including:

  • A child's needs and age;
  • The financial resources available to any party;
  • Child care expenses;
  • Spousal support paid or received;
  • Travel costs for long-distance visitation;
  • The presence of any other children in the household; and
  • "[A]ny other reason consistent with the best interest of the child."

A judge may also consider any post-secondary expenses when calculating child support; the case law on this point is rather uncertain.

To convince the judge to deviate, a party typically introduces evidence of a child's special physical, emotional or educational needs. Alternatively, gifted children may require instruction from a specialized teacher or participation in a challenging sports league to reach their full potential. Bear in mind, however, that the "best interest of the child" is based on the child's needs and not the parent's wants.

Contact our office for a consultation with an aggressive Cedar Park divorce lawyer. Mr. Powers is a Board Certified family law expert.

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