How is Child Support Calculated in Texas?
Monthly child support payments are based on the Judge’s discretion, and what the judge thinks is in the best interest of the child. To ensure fairness, the Texas Family Code provides guidelines for Judges to follow for the amount of monthly payments.
To calculate the amount of child support payments, Texas Courts apply a three-part test: The court must (1) determine the amount of the paying party’s available net income, (2) apply the child support guidelines to paying party’s net income to determine the amount of the support, and (3) consider any other factors that might justify deviating from the guidelines. As a matter of practice, it is rare that a court will deviate from the child support guidelines. However, there are certainly cases where a non-guideline child support obligation is appropriate.
What is my Monthly Net Income?
Net income is based on the paying party’s monthly total financial resources. Such resources include: wages and salary, compensation, interest income, overtime income, annuities, unemployment income, social security benefits, and any other income the paying party receives. Once the average monthly income is determined, certain items must be subtracted from that amount. The following must be subtracted:
- Federal income taxes;
- State income taxes (Texas has no state income tax, but the paying party may receive income from another state);
- Social security taxes;
- Non-discretionary retirement contributions;
- Union dues; and
- Expenses for child’s health insurance.
How are the Guidelines Applied?
The majority of Texans who are obligated to make child support payments, pay an amount based on their net income. The following guidelines outline the percentage of net income the paying party must pay per child:
- 20% of the paying party’s net income if only 1 child,
- 25% of the paying party’s net income if 2 children,
- 30% of the paying party’s net income if 3 children,
- 35% of the paying party’s net income if 4 children,
- 40% of the paying party’s net income if 5 children,
- Not less than 40% of the paying party’s net income if 6 or more children.
In Texas, the monthly net income figure that is used to determine monthly child support payments has a presumed cap. The maximum amount of net income from which child support can be calculated is $8550 per month. If the paying party’s net income is more than $8,550 per month, the amount of child support is based only on the first $8,550. The court may order the paying party to pay additional support if it is determined that the child needs additional support.
For example, if the paying party’s monthly net income is $8,550 or more, the maximum monthly child support for two children would be $2,137.50 per month (25% percent of $8,550). If a paying parent’s net income is less than $8,550 per month, the child support calculation applies to the monthly net income.
Other Factors the Court may Consider
The Judge has discretion in deviating from the child support guidelines. If the amount of child support that is calculated based on the guidelines, is not in the best interest of the child, the Judge may adjust the amount. The following factors may be considered:
- the age and needs of the child;
- the child’s educational expenses;
- the child’s health insurance and uninsured medical expenses;
- extraordinary educational, healthcare or other expenses of the child or parent;
- any resources available for the child support;
- whether either parent has conservatorship or possession of another child;
- each parent’s period of possession of the child;
- child care expenses;
- travel costs incurred to exercise visitation;
- child care expenses;
- the receiving party’s (the parent who receives the payments) net resources and earning potential;
- spousal maintenance received or paid by a parent;
- cash flow from real or personal property, and assets like businesses or investments;
- debts assumed by either parent; and
- any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child.
The Texas Family Code prohibits the Judge from considering certain factors. The Judge cannot consider: the history of additional payments that exceeded the court ordered amount; the sex of either parent or the child; nor the martial status of the child’s parent.