Texas child support is determined by the best interests of the child

Texas family laws, as do those of other states, revolve around determining and striving to meet the best interests of children when their parents divorce or for whatever other reason will not be living together as a married couple. A crucial component of creating safe and healthy childhood conditions is adequate financial support, and Texas law expects both parents to provide that support when possible and appropriate.

Texas child support

Child support is the payment of money by one parent (the obligor) to the other (the obligee, usually the one who provides the primary residence for the child), most often monthly, to contribute to the financial costs of caring for and raising the child as entailed in meeting basic needs like shelter, food, clothing, education, medical care and so on. Child support is ordered by the courts, usually in cases of divorce, separation or paternity.

A child's best interest

Texas law provides that child support is to be determined equitably between two parents to meet the best interests of the child.

Divorcing parents may negotiate a child support arrangement as part of a marital settlement agreement, but the court still has to approve their proposal in light of the best interest of the child. If the couple cannot agree to terms of a child support agreement that the court will approve, the court will have to craft a child support order in accordance with Texas child support laws.

Duration

Child support in Texas is ordinarily ordered either through a child's 18th birthday or the month when high school ends, whichever occurs later. The court may also order ongoing support for an adult child who cannot support him or herself because of a physical or mental disability. Of course, the parties can agree to other arrangements such as a payment of college tuition.

Amount

Determination of the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other starts with consideration of official state child support guidelines, which are "presumed to be in the best interest of the child." First, the law looks at the obligor's "monthly net resources" up to $7,500 (or as officially adjusted for inflation) and determines the percentage of those resources available for child support considering how many children the man or woman is responsible to support. For example, if there is only one child in the picture, 20 percent of the monthly net resources are presumed available.

If a parent has more than $7,500 in monthly net resources, a court may order higher support to come out of the dollars over that amount, if appropriate. The percentages also vary depending how many children other than those before the court are being supported by the obligor parent.

Departure from guidelines

When the evidence rebuts the presumption that the guideline amount is in the child's best interest because it would be "unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances," the judge may depart from the guidelines if he or she makes findings that consider "all relevant factors," including 17 specifically enumerated things such as:

  • All available financial resources
  • The child's age and needs
  • The division of custody and visitation time between the parents
  • Child care expenses during parental employment
  • The obligee's net resources, taking into account intentional unemployment or underemployment
  • "Special or extraordinary" expenses of either party or the child
  • Debts
  • And more

Anyone in Texas facing questions of child support should seek the advice and representation of an experienced family law attorney.