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Child Support

Child Support:

Under Texas law all parents have a duty to support their child. This means the parent must provide the child with food, clothing, shelter, education and other necessary things to live. A parent who does not primarily reside with the child has the duty and obligation to support his/her child. The parent ordered to pay child support is called the Obligor. The parent who receives child support is called the Obligee.

A child support order requires the obligor to make regular payments in a specific amount to the primary custodial parent. The court will not put limitations on how the custodial parent spends the child support. The child support is presumed to go toward the support of the child's household, either directly or indirectly, and therefore it ultimately serves the child's best interest however it is spent. Normally the support is paid through the state registry and then sent to the custodial parent so there is a record of payment. If the court allows the payments to be sent directly to the custodial parent, it is important both parents keep a record of all payments sent and received.

The law in Texas requires child support to be taken directly out of the obligor's paycheck. When child support is established, an order called an Employer's Order to Withhold Income for Child Support, also called the Withholding Order, will be signed by the judge and sent to the obligor's employer. This order requires the employer to withhold income for child support out of each paycheck. Even if the obligor changes jobs, the withholding order will apply to any new employer of the obligor. The obligor is required to notify the court and the other parent of any changes in his employment situation including the new employer's name, address and phone number. If both parties agree, the withholding order may be suspended until such time as the obligor becomes behind in payment. In that situation, the obligor will be responsible for making the monthly payments on his/her own and the withholding order will not be sent to the employer until he/she is late in payment. Although it may take a few weeks to get the process started, once it is up and running. The withholding order often makes the process of paying child support smooth and simple. All child support payments are then sent by the employer to a central processing unit where the checks are processed and submitted to the parent to whom the support is owed.

An additional required form of child support is health insurance, also called medical child support. It is the responsibility of the noncustodial parent to make sure that the child has health care coverage. This may be through private insurance, CHIPS or Medicaid. If the noncustodial parent does not have access to health insurance and the custodial parent does, the court will require the noncustodial parent to reimburse the custodial parent for the cost to insure the child. The uninsured medical expenses are normally divided equally between the parents.

A parent seeking a court order for child support may go to the local office of the Texas Attorney General and fill out an application for assistance with child support. Most people call this the “child support office.” The parent seeking child support should be ready to provide the noncustodial parent's home and employment addresses, telephone numbers, date of birth or social security number. The office of the Attorney General will then notify the noncustodial parent to see if an agreement can be reached regarding that parent paying child sup-port. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the Attorney General's office will file a lawsuit asking the court to order child support. They will also ask that the child sup-port be deducted from the parent's paycheck.  A parent seeking a court order for child support may hire a private lawyer and file a lawsuit called a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship. This is basically the same lawsuit the Attorney General will file. However, a private attorney represents the parent and the Attorney General represents the State. A private attorney will cost more money because the Attorney General does not charge attorney's fees to the parent seeking child support. However, there are advantages to hiring a private attorney, such as the opportunity to reach a quicker resolution and the ability to address a parent's concerns about the standard joint conservatorship rights and duties and/or the standard visitation schedule.

How Much Support You Will Receive:

The amount owed by the obligor will depend on the obligor's income and the number of children for whom the obligor has a duty to support (both from the children involved in this court case as well as children from another relationship). Texas has guidelines for determining how much a parent should pay in child support. The parent responsible for paying child support is allowed to deduct from his gross pay (the income before taxes or any deductions) federal taxes, social security, union dues and cost of the child's health insurance. After these items are deducted, the court uses a percentage of the obligor's net income to determine the amount of child support the obligor should pay. If the obligor does NOT have any other children to support and the obligor's monthly net resources are $8550 per month, then the percentage of child support applied is as follows:

  • 20% (from net monthly income) for 1 child;

  • 25% (from net monthly income) for 2 children;

  • 30% (from net monthly income) for 3 children;

  • 35% (from net monthly income) for 4 children; and

  • 40% (from net monthly income) for 5 children.

The percentage continues to increase by 5% per child, however no parent may be required to pay more than 50% of his or her net earnings to fulfill all of his or her child support obligations. If the parent has other children to support from another relationship, the court will take that into account and the percentages will be less. Also, factors such as whether the noncustodial parent is intentionally unemployed, or under-employed (not earning as much as he or she is capable) will be considered by the court. Normally, unless the non-custodial parent is unable to work due to disability, the court will require some amount of child support. It is presumed the noncustodial parent is capable of earning at least minimum wage unless he or she can prove otherwise. On the other hand, if the obligor's monthly net income over $8,550, the court will apply the percentage guidelines to the first $8,550 of the obligor's net monthly resources, and may order additional amounts of child support as appropriate, considering the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.

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