Child Support Law
How to Calculate Child Support in Texas
When Texas parents go through a divorce, one parent will often end up with physical custody, or “conservatorship,” of any children the couple share. This parent, known as the “conservator,” will often receive payments ordered by the court from the other parent. This payment, known as child support, is often automatically deducted from their pay by the noncustodial parent's employer.
Duration of Child Support
In the state of Texas, the noncustodial parent is generally required to make child support payments for any child under the age of 18. Support payments may be terminated earlier, however, if a child becomes emancipated, if he or she joins the military or if he or she gets married.
In some cases, child support payments may extend past the age of 18. If the child is disabled, for example, the support obligations of the noncustodial parent may be extended indefinitely. If a child is still in high school on their 18th birthday, support payments may continue until they graduate. Some parents may also agree to continue paying past the age of 18 to help cover the costs of going to college.
Child Support Formula
The exact amount that the noncustodial parent will have to pay to the conservator varies depending upon his or her income. Calculation of child support in Texas requires a parent's net income to determine payment amounts. Net income simply refers to the amount of money left after necessary expenses, such as taxes, are paid. It is calculated first using the parent's gross income. Gross income, which is typically calculated per year, generally includes, among other earnings:
- Retirement and disability
- Alimony from a previous marriage
- Gifts and prizes
Once gross income is determined, certain costs are subtracted:
- Social Security taxes
- Retirement plan contributions
- Health insurance premiums
- Union dues
- Federal income tax
- Children's medical costs
The resulting amount is a parent's yearly net income, which is divided by 12 to obtain the monthly net income. A table is then used to determine how much the noncustodial parent is responsible for paying. This table displays percentages based on the number of children being supported. The resulting proportion is the percentage of the paying parent's net income that must go toward child support:
- One child: 20 percent
- Two children: 25 percent
- Three children: 30 percent
- Four children: 35 percent
- Five children: 40 percent
For example, if a paying parent's monthly net income is $2,000, and they are responsible for supporting one child, they would multiply the $2,000 by the 20 percent listed in the table. Thus, this parent would be responsible for paying $400 in child support per month.
If a parent's net income were more than $7,500 per month, only the first $7,500 would be used in calculating the base support payment amount. However, the court can then order additional payments depending upon the needs of the child.
It should be noted that, because each case is different, the amount of the required child support payments could be adjusted on a case-by-case basis based on the child's needs. For example, a noncustodial parent who spends a larger amount of time with the child could have payments lowered. Courts can raise or lower a payment amount based on:
- The child's age
- Child care expenses for the purpose of employment
- Whether the conservator's employer provides housing and transportation
- Alimony or spousal support amounts
- Travel costs for the purpose of access to the child (visitation)
- Both parents' debts
Generally, the best interest of the child will take precedence in all calculations. However, payments are also adjusted to be reasonable for the paying parent.
If either parent goes through a significant change that affects the child support order, modifications can be made. For example, if a noncustodial parent gets a higher-paying job, the conservator parent may ask for an increase in support payments. On the other hand, a noncustodial parent who loses a job may request a modification to decrease payment amounts.