Attorney Lindsey Obenhaus explains how child support payments are determined during a Texas divorce.
One of the most important issues family law attorneys deal with is facilitating agreements regarding financial responsibilities and support for minor and dependent children.
In any lawsuit involving a minor child, it must be decided how the child will be supported financially. The Texas Family Code includes a standardized calculation for determining Child Support payments – but in many cases, this guideline amount isn’t realistic.
At Goranson Bain Ausley, we understand that no two families are the same – and that your children’s financial needs are unique. So we work with you to find the right strategy for determining Child Support. Whether that’s simply following the traditional guidelines or taking an approach that’s specifically tailored to your family.
There are few family law issues more emotionally charged than the question of how much money the non-custodial parent should pay for the support of his or her child. At Goranson Bain Ausley, our lawyers know Texas law regarding child support and advocate tirelessly for the outcome that is in the best interests of you and your child.
While it is almost universally viewed as a responsibility and an obligation, determining an appropriate amount of financial support often leads to disputes. This is especially true for parents with higher incomes or significant estates.
Texas Family Code child support guidelines provide that child support:
Is not altered by the re-marriage of either parent
Can only be changed or otherwise modified by court order
Stepparents and partners who aren’t legal parents aren’t required to pay child support under Texas law, regardless of how long they’ve been part of a child’s life.
Child support is money paid to support a child, including providing the child with, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, dental care, and education. The goal of child support is to ensure the child is receiving the financial support necessary to meet the needs of the child.
Texas law requires both legal parents to financially support their children’s necessary expenses even after a divorce.
In determining the amount of child support to be paid, the court’s main consideration is the best interest of the child. The court bases its decisions to order less or more child support than the guidelines by considering evidence of all relevant factors, including:
Temporary child support orders, issued to provide for and protect children before a divorce is finalized, have multiple benefits.
A temporary child support order can reduce the amount of stress children experience during a divorce by allowing them to continue with their normal activities. It can also help all parties verify if the agreed amount of support is adequate for their children to maintain their standard of living. A temporary child support agreement or order that’s acceptable to all parties may be formalized in the final divorce decree. If the temporary agreement or order isn’t acceptable to all parties, it may be amended before finalization.
Permanent child support refers to the orders that lock in the terms of the child support payments. However, the word “permanent” can be misleading, as these orders can be changed over time. If a party believes there is a substantial change in circumstance and that a different child support amount would be in the best interest of the child, they can request for a modification of the previous child support order.
Child support determinations are deeply intertwined with child custody and visitation arrangements. Generally speaking, non-custodial parents, or obligors, make monthly child support payments to the custodial parent. Custodial parents are not usually the subjects of a child support court order because the court assumes they’re already making substantial contributions to their child’s care by providing food, clothing, shelter, and education.
In Texas, there is no minimum requirement for child support and child support orders are determined by a judge. It’s possible for parents to determine their own child support arrangements—but to have legal efficacy, these agreements must still prove to the court that they are in the best interest of the child and be formalized in an order approved by a judge.
Because all child support determinations must be court-approved, it’s extremely important to have a knowledgeable child support attorney involved in the creation of an agreement, even if a divorce is amicable.
Every child deserves to receive the support they need, whether it be emotional or financial. If a parent isn’t adhering to their child support orders, that negatively impacts their child’s life. Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to resolve the issue.
Several state and federal agencies handle child support enforcement. In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General and family courts partner with the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to locate and notify non-compliant parents of any court orders and the amounts of child support payments owed to a custodial parent.
Texas also has a diversion program called the Child Support Probation Unit. This unit collaborates with the Office of the Attorney General and the IV-D Child Support Court Associate Judges to provide an incarceration alternative for non-custodial parents who have been held in contempt for non-payment of child support monies.
These county probation divisions monitor money due to custodial parents, attempt to remove barriers to child support payment by providing probationers with access to community resources, and can reduce jail stays for certain incarcerated parents by placing them in structured, court-monitored support programs instead of prison or jail.
Using a private attorney or law firm can help speed up the enforcement process and ensure an active child support case doesn’t get lost in a federal or state backlog.
As your life changes over time, the terms of your child support order may need to be modified. There are specific circumstances that must exist to do this, and it’s important that any modification be formalized through a new court order and not through informal agreements.
Child support orders can be modified by either parent if the existing order has been active for more than three years or the monthly support amount would change by either 20% or $100. This often occurs when the obligor experiences a significant change in circumstances, such as the non-custodial parent’s income significantly increases or decreases, the non-custodial parent becomes legally responsible for more children, medical insurance for the dependent child/children changes, custodial arrangements are altered, a major medical issue arises or the non-custodial parent is incarcerated.
It’s important to note that incarceration itself will not alter a child support order. The obligor must apply for a modification to the order to ensure they are not held responsible for back payments.
Child support orders can only be modified by obtaining a new court order. Informal agreements between parents are not enforceable and can result in legal difficulties for both parents.
Goranson Bain Ausley lawyers focus on identifying the financial needs of the child and then advocating from a “best interest of the child” perspective both in and out of the courtroom. In addition, our lawyers have an extensive background handling enforcement and modification issues. If you would like to learn more about child support and what support you may be required to pay or entitled to receive, call one of our three office locations: Dallas, Plano, and Austin or fill out the consultation form today.
At Goranson Bain Ausley we strive to deliver clarity about what comes next and confidence that you and your family’s future are more secure. Contact our team and discover how we can help you.
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