WIDNER FAMILY LAWYERS:CHILD SUPPORT
One of the Top Texas Child Support and Modification Law Firms.
Your children are the most important members of your family, and when going through a divorce in Texas, it is extremely important that they are protected. At WidnerFamilyLaw.com, we have always been dedicated to upholding stability in a child’s life and making sure the end result meet the “best interest of the child” standard. We want to help you and your children make the transition as smoothly as possible from one household to two.
WidnerFamilyLaw.com handles the following types of child support cases in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in seven counties, Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Rockwall, Ellis, and Kaufman Counties:
- Presenting Enforcement and Collection of Child Support Proceedings.
- Defense to Collection of Child Support.
- Child Support Cases Involving the Texas Attorney General.
- Preventing Jail Sentences in Contempt Proceedings.
- Assisting in Restoring Licenses Lost in Child Support Cases.
- Child Support Cases Where the Obligor is in Jail.
- Child Support Cases Where Self-Employed Obligor is Hiding Income.
- Child Support Cases
- Modification of Child Support Orders.
- Clarification of Amounts of Child Support Owed When in Dispute.
- Reduction of Child Support Because of Unemployment.
- Reduction of Child Support Because of Negative Financial Events.
- Collection of Child Support Owed.
- Seeking Retroactive Child Support.
- Fighting Child Support Because Paternity is an Issue.
- Clarification of Child Support When Direct Payments Were Made.
- Correcting Inaccurate Child Support Records.
What does it take to support a child?
The question is simple, but the answer is not. Both parents have a duty to support their child based upon their incomes. There’s more work than you might expect in arriving at a decision on child support.
State laws on child support guidelines are a framework. There are many cases when the guidelines don’t apply, and courts have leeway in issuing a child support order. In those cases, establishing child support requires proof of income and expenses. Know what to expect and how to best work with your lawyer when it comes to getting a child support order or having an existing order modified.
Before child support can be determined, a court must know what a parent’s income is. Proof of income is needed, the net income available to pay support, and whether any other income sources should be attributed to the parent’s resources.
Proof of Income
State child support guidelines do vary by state. However, all child support guidelines require proof of the non-custodial parent’s income level. Most guidelines treat income as all money that’s available to meet the child’s needs. Income can include wages or a salary from a parent’s regular full-time or part-time job.
Income also covers sources beyond a regular job. Irregular income may also be used for child support purposes. For example, strike benefits or a personal injury settlement are types of irregular income that can be the basis for a child support award.
Establishing Gross or Net Income
Income considered for child support awards is either gross income or net income. Gross income is all income before taxes or expenses. Net income is income after taxes and expenses. In most cases, either type of income is shown by paystubs, tax returns and other financial statements.
There are certain situations when proving income is difficult. For example, a self-employed parent may want depreciation and losses figured into the calculation of income. A number of states allow for depreciation expenses and operating losses, while other states exclude those business deductions. Also, a self-employed parent’s income can vary greatly from year to year. In that case, many states allow income to be averaged over a length of time to establish a monthly income.
Determining Attributed Income
Proving income is very complicated if a parent is unemployed or underemployed. A court will determine if the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary. If so, a court can then attribute, or assign, income to the parent. This is also known as imputed income.
In several states, a court will look at a parent’s employment history and earning capacity to attribute income. Other states will only attribute income based on the parent’s actual earned income. If there’s evidence that unemployment or underemployment is not voluntary or temporary, then prior earning capacity won’t usually be imputed in determining income.
Expenses: What Are Your Child’s Needs?
The other important part of calculating child support is knowing what a child’s needs are. Basic needs are factored into child support guidelines. Needs differ, though, just as individuals do. Child support guidelines generally give courts leeway in setting support, and allow a court to consider a child’s extraordinary expenses or needs. These can include:
- Child care expenses so the custodial parent can work
- Medical or health-related expenses
- Educational expenses like private school or college tuition
- These expenses aren’t automatically owed by the non-custodial parent. They must also be reasonable.
A child’s needs and the parents’ abilities to pay set the background to allow the court to decide on the appropriate amount of child support.
Understanding the importance of financial information, both on parental income and a child’s needs, can help you work through your child support matter. You’re also in the best position to work with your lawyer and have the best chance for reaching a child support arrangement that is fair to both parents and serves the needs of your child.
Questions for Your Attorney
Does a court have to say why child support guidelines weren’t applied in my case?
What range of financial records can I obtain about my ex-spouse’s business?
Are work-related benefits, such as a company car, counted as income for child support purposes?
Who pays child support?
Under Texas law all parents have a duty to support theirchild. This means the parent must provide the child with food, clothing, shelter, educationand other necessary things to live. A parent who does not primarily reside withthe child has the duty and obligation to support his/her child. The parent ordered topay child support is called the Obligor. The parent who receives child support is calledthe Obligee.
When and how is child support paid?
A child support order requires the obligorto make regular payments in a specific amount to the primary custodial parent. Thecourt will not put limitations on how the custodial parent spends the child support.The child support is presumed to go toward the support of the child’s household,either directly or indirectly, and therefore ultimately serves the child’s best interest
however it is spent. Normally the support is paid through the state registry and then
sent to the custodial parent so there is a record of payment. If the court allows the payments
to be sent directly to the custodial parent, it is important both parents keep a
record of all payments sent and received.
What is the employer’s order to withhold income for child support?
The law inTexas requires child support to be taken directly out of the obligor’s paycheck. When
child support is established, an order called An Employer’s Order to Withhold Income for
Child Support (also called the Withholding Order) will be signed by the judge and sentto the obligor’s employer. This order requires the employer to withhold income forchild support out of each paycheck. Even if the obligor changes jobs, the withholdingorder will apply to any new employer of the obligor. The obligor is required to notifythe court and the other parent of any changes in his employment situation includingthe new employer’s name, address and phone number. If both parties agree, the withholdingorder may be suspended until such time as the obligor becomes behind in payment.In that situation, the obligor will be responsible for making the monthly paymentson his/her own and the withholding order will not be sent to the employer untilhe/she is late in payment. Although it may take a few weeks to get the process started,
once it is up and running. The withholding order often makes the process of payingchild support smooth and simple. All child support payments are then sent by theemployer to a central processing unit where the checks are processed and submitted tothe parent to whom the support is owed.
Who pays for the child’s health insurance?
An additional required form of childsupport is health insurance, also called medical child support. It is the responsibility ofthe noncustodial parent to make sure that the child has health care coverage. This maybe through private insurance, CHIPS or Medicaid. If the noncustodial parent does nothave access to health insurance and the custodial parent does, the court will require thenoncustodial parent to reimburse the custodial parent for the cost to insure the child.
The uninsured medical expenses are normally divided equally between the parents.
How do I calculate the amount of child support?The amount owed by the obligorwill depend on the obligor’s income and the number of children for whom theobligor has a duty to support (both from the children involved in this court case as wellas children from another relationship).
Texas has guidelines for determining how much a parent should pay in child support.The parent responsible for paying child support is allowed to deduct from hisgross pay (the income before taxes or any deductions) federal taxes, social security,union dues and cost of the child’s health insurance. After these items are deducted, thecourt uses a percentage of the obligor’s net income to determine the amount of childsupport the obligor should pay. If the obligor does NOT have any other children tosupport and the obligor’s monthly net resources are $6,000 per month or less, then thepercentage of child support applied is as follows:
20% (from net monthly income) for 1 child
25% (from net monthly income) for 2 children
30% (from net monthly income) for 3 children
35% (from net monthly income) for 4 children
40% (from net monthly income) for 5 children
The percentage continues to increase by 5% per child, however no parent may berequired to pay more than 50% of his or her net earnings to fulfill all of his or her childsupport obligations. If the parent has other children to support from another relationship,the court will take that into account and the percentages will be less. Also, factorssuch as whether the noncustodial parent is intentionally unemployed, or underemployed(not earning as much as he or she is capable) will be considered by the court.Normally, unless the non-custodial parent is unable to work due to disability, the courtwill require some amount of child support. It is presumed the noncustodial parent iscapable of earning at least minimum wage unless he or she can prove otherwise. On
the other hand, if the obligor has monthly net income over $7,500, the court willapply the percentage guidelines to the first $7,500 of the obligor’s net monthlyresources, and may order additional amounts of child support as appropriate, consideringthe income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.
What if the parent does not pay the child support?If a noncustodial parent does not pay child support, he or she is subject to enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments. The Court uses many techniques to enforce child support orders, including:
- requiring employers to deduct court-ordered child support from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck through wage withholding;
- intercepting federal income tax refund checks, lottery winnings, or other money that may be due from state or federal sources;
- filing liens against his or her property or other assets;
- suspending driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses; and
- filing a lawsuit against the noncustodial parent asking the court to enforce its order.
A judge may sentence a nonpaying parent to jail and enter a judgment for past due child support.
How can child support be changed?
Only the Court can modify the child support order. It cannot be done by agreement of the parties. Grounds for a modification include a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or a person affected by the order, or the passage of three years since the last child support order and a difference in monthly payment by either 20 percent or $100 from the child support guidelines. A parent subject to a child support order may request a review of the ordered child support amounts every three years by contacting the Office of the Attorney General.