As a divorce attorney in Dallas County, Texas, child support is one of those issues which is misunderstood by a lot of divorcing persons in Texas.   It is commonly thought that child support can be avoided if the parties can agree to waive child support or have a separate agreement for child support outside of the divorce decree.  Or, parties believe that by asking for joint custody,  a parent can avoid having to pay child support.

Is there a guideline child support amount that I must pay?

The amount of a periodic child support payment established by the child support guidelines in

effect in this state at the time of the hearing is presumed to be reasonable, and an order of support conforming to the guidelines is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. A court may determine that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate

under the circumstances.

What factors does a Court use to establish child support?

In Texas, the Court may order child support payments in an amount other than that established by the guidelines if the evidence rebuts the presumption that application of the guidelines is in the best interest of the child and justifies a variance from the guidelines.

In determining whether application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate under

the circumstances, the court shall consider evidence of all relevant factors, including:

(1) the age and needs of the child;

(2) the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;

(3) any financial resources available for the support of the child;

(4) the amount of time of possession of and access to a child;

(5) the amount of the obligee’s net resources, including the earning potential of the obligee if

the actual income of the obligee is significantly less than what the obligee could earn

because the obligee is intentionally unemployed or underemployed and including an

increase or decrease in the income of the obligee or income that may be attributed to the

property and assets of the obligee;

(6) child care expenses incurred by either party in order to maintain gainful employment;

(7) whether either party has the managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of

another child;

(8) the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or

received by a party;

(9) the expenses for a son or daughter for education beyond secondary school;

(10) whether the obligor or obligee has an automobile, housing, or other benefits furnished by

his or her employer, another person, or a business entity;

(11) the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal services of the parties;

(12) provision for health care insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;

(13) special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or of the

child;

(14) the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to a child;

(15) positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a

business and investments;

(16) debts or debt service assumed by either party; and

(17) any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.

Can I have an agreement with the custodial parent regarding child support?

To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a suit, the parties may

enter into a written agreement containing provisions for support of the child and for modification of the agreement, including variations from the child support guidelines provided by Subchapter C.

If the court finds that the agreement is in the child’s best interest, the court shall render an order in accordance with the agreement.

The terms of the agreement pertaining to child support in the order may be enforced by all remedies available for enforcement of a judgment, including contempt, but are not enforceable as a contract.

If the court finds the agreement is not in the child’s best interest, the court may request the parties to submit a revised agreement or the court may render an order for the support of the child.

So what are the percentages that I would have to pay?

(a) The guidelines for the support of a child in this section are specifically designed to apply to situations in which the obligor’s monthly net resources are not greater than $7,500 or the adjusted amount determined under Subsection (a–1), whichever is greater.

(a–1) The dollar amount prescribed by Subsection (a) is adjusted every six years as necessary to

reflect inflation. The Title IV-D agency shall compute the adjusted amount, to take effect beginning September 1 of the year of the adjustment, based on the percentage change in the consumer price index during the 72-month period preceding March 1 of the year of the adjustment, as rounded to the nearest $50 increment. The Title IV-D agency shall publish the adjusted amount in the Texas Register before September 1 of the year in which the adjustment takes effect. For purposes of this subsection, “consumer price index” has the meaning assigned by Section 341.201, Finance Code.

(b) If the obligor’s monthly net resources are not greater than the amount provided by Subsection

(a), the court shall presumptively apply the following schedule in rendering the child support order:

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES

BASED ON THE MONTHLY NET RESOURCES OF THE OBLIGOR

1 child 20% of Obligor’s Net Resources

2 children 25% of Obligor’s Net Resources

3 children 30% of Obligor’s Net Resources

4 children 35% of Obligor’s Net Resources

5 children 40% of Obligor’s Net Resources

6+ children Not less than the amount for 5 children

What if my spouse wants more than guideline child support?

If the obligor’s net resources exceed the amount provided by Section 154.125(a), the court

shall presumptively apply the percentage guidelines to the portion of the obligor’s net resources that does not exceed that amount. Without further reference to the percentage recommended by these guidelines, the court may order additional amounts of child support as appropriate, depending on the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.

The proper calculation of a child support order that exceeds the presumptive amount established for the portion of the obligor’s net resources provided by Section 154.125(a) requires that the entire amount of the presumptive award be subtracted from the proven total needs of the child. After the presumptive award is subtracted, the court shall allocate between the parties the responsibility to meet the additional needs of the child according to the circumstances of the parties. However, in no event may the obligor be required to pay more child support than the greater of the presumptive amount or the amount equal to 100 percent of the proven needs of the child.

In cases involving divorce and child support paternity cases,  we will advise clients that the amount of child support can be set by agreement between the parties.  There are usually circumstances that allow parties to set their child support amount in light of other benefits that the parties have agreed to share that will effect the child’s financial benefits.