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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.
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.
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:
Once gross income is determined, certain costs are subtracted:
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:
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:
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.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified child support lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local child support attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.