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Child Support - Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

When parents separate, appropriate arrangements must be made regarding the children.  Specifically, parents must resolve issues of custody, possession and access, and financial support for the children.  Often, parents reach an agreement and live separately for years, without the need for Court intervention.  However, if the parents cannot agree on each of these issues, either party may petition the Court for orders that will govern the relationship.  Once entered by a Judge, these orders become binding on both parents, and failure to follow the orders can result in contempt and jail for the disobedient parent.  Today's blog post will address some of the frequently asked questions about orders for child support in Texas courts.

Does the Judge have to follow a mathematical formula for calculating child support?

Texas law contains guideline percentages for the calculation of child support.  However, Judges are not bound to follow the guidelines; hence, the name "guideline".  However, many Texas judges find safety in simply applying the guidelines, and the guidelines are legally presumed to be in the best interest of the child.  Therefore, the parent seeking to vary from the guidelines (whether higher or lower) has the burden of proof to show the Judge that following the guidelines would not be in the best interest of the child.

What is the proper calculation of the guideline amount of child support?

The percentage calculation is determined based on the obligor's net income (basically, the gross resources less the proper amount of taxes).  The guideline percentage depends on the number of children who are the subject of the suit, and the number of any other children for whom the child support obligor has a duty to support.  For example, John has two children, both of whom are the subject of the suit, and one other child from a prior marriage.  The percentage for child support would be 22.5 percent.  If John has monthly net income of $3,000 after proper deduction for taxes,  the guideline child support would be $675.00 per month.  Several additional reductions are available, such as for union dues and health insurance premiums for the children.  

How is the child support paid?

Typically, the proper amount of child support is ordered by the Court to be wittheld from the obligor's paycheck.  The employer sends the proper amount to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit in San Antonio, Texas.  The State Disbursement Unit then sends a check to the custodial parent or credits the amount to a debit account for use by the custodial parent.  

What if the financial circumstances change after the Judge orders child support?

Either parent has the right to request the Judge to modify the child support amount if the circumstances change.  Two distinct bases for child support modification exist.  First, the Court may modify the amount at any time if sufficient evidence is presented to show a "material and substantial change" in the circumstances.  Second, if it has been more than 3 years since the prior child support order, the Court may modify the amount regardless of a showing of material and substantial change if the amount would differ by $100 per month or 20 percent per month.  

What if the child support is not timely paid?

If the obligor fails to timely pay the child support as ordered, the other parent may ask the Court for several powerful remedies.  First, the Court may hold the obligor in contempt of Court, sentencing the obligor to jail and requirement of the payment of a fine.  Second, the Court may enter judgment against the obligor, which the obligee can seek to collect via various remedies (levy or foreclosure of property, etc.).  Third, the Court may order suspension of the obligor's licenses, such as driver's licenses, professional licenses and hunting/fishing licenses.

If you and the other parent of your child are planning to separate, it is critical that you understand your rights and obligations for child support.  Christiansen Law Firm has signficant experience handling child support matters.  Contact Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio for additional information about how the attorneys at Christiansen Law Firm can assist with your matter.  


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