As a divorce attorney,  clients will usually have the issue of child support to deal with if the divorce involves a child of the marriage.  The questions that mostly come up in the initial divorce conference is “how much do I have to pay” or “do I have to pay child support if we are doing joint custody”.   The Court will order either party or sometimes both parties to support a child in the manner that the Court believes to be in the best interest of the child.

How long do I have to pay support?

Child support is paid until the child is 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, whichever occurs later; until the child is emancipated through marriage, through removal of the disabilities of minority by court order, or by other operation of law; until the death of the child; or if the child is disabled as defined in this chapter, for an indefinite period.

Does child support stop when the child is 18:

The court may render an original support order, or modify an existing order, providing child support past the 18th birthday of the child to be paid only if the child is: enrolled under Chapter 25, Education Code, in an accredited secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma;  under Section 130.008, Education Code, in courses for joint high school and junior college credit; or on a full-time basis in a private secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma; and complying with: the minimum attendance requirements of Subchapter C, Chapter 25, Education Code; or the minimum attendance requirements imposed by the school in which the child is enrolled, if the child is enrolled in a private secondary school.

The request for a support order through high school graduation may be filed before or after the child’s 18th birthday. The order for periodic support may provide that payments continue through the end of the month in which the child graduates.

The intent of this section is to require parents to provide support for their children, even beyond the age of eighteen years, as long as the child is pursuing a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Can my duty to pay child support stop for other reasons?

Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the order or as provided by the Texas Family Code the child support order terminates on:

(1) the marriage of the child;

(2) the removal of the child’s disabilities for general purposes;

(3) the death of the child;

(4) a finding by a court that the child:

(A) is 18 years of age or older; and

(B) has failed to comply with the enrollment or attendance requirements described by

Section 154.002(a);

(5) the issuance under Section 161.005(h) of an order terminating the parent-child relationship between the obligor and the child based on the results of genetic testing that exclude the obligor as the child’s genetic father; or

(6) if the child enlists in the armed forces of the United States, the date on which the child

begins active service as defined by 10 U.S.C. Section 101.

(b) Unless a nonparent or agency has been appointed conservator of the child under Chapter 153, the order for current child support, and any provision relating to conservatorship, possession, or access terminates on the marriage or remarriage of the obligor and obligee to each other.

Will the court deduct the support from my check?

Yes, the court will require that your support be payroll deducted.  In a proceeding in which periodic payments of child support are ordered, modified, or enforced, the court or Title IV-D agency shall order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor as provided by Chapter 158.

If the court does not order income withholding, an order for support must contain a provision for income withholding to ensure that withholding may be effected if a delinquency occurs.

A child support order must be construed to contain a withholding provision even if the provision has been omitted from the written order.

If the order was rendered or last modified before January 1, 1987, the order is presumed to contain a provision for income withholding procedures to take effect in the event a delinquency occurs without further amendment to the order or future action by the court.

Do I have to pay back child support?

The court may order a parent to pay retroactive child support if the parent:

(1) has not previously been ordered to pay support for the child; and

(2) was not a party to a suit in which support was ordered.

(b) In ordering retroactive child support, the court shall apply the child support guidelines.

(c) Unless the Title IV-D agency is a party to an agreement concerning support or purporting to settle past, present, or future support obligations by prepayment or otherwise, an agreement between the parties does not reduce or terminate retroactive support that the agency may request.

(d) Notwithstanding Subsection (a), the court may order a parent subject to a previous child support order to pay retroactive child support if:

(1) the previous child support order terminated as a result of the marriage or remarriage of the child’s parents;

(2) the child’s parents separated after the marriage or remarriage; and

(3) a new child support order is sought after the date of the separation.

In rendering an order under Subsection (d), the court may order retroactive child support back to the date of the separation of the child’s parents.

What if I overpaid support.  Do I get that back from the other parent?

If you as the payor are not in arrears and the your child support obligation has terminated, the oblige shall return to the obligor a child support payment made by the obligor that exceeds the amount of support ordered, regardless of whether the payment was made before, on, or after the date the child support obligation terminated.

You, as an obligor, may file a suit to recover a child support payment. If the court finds that the obligee, the person you paid the support to, failed to return a child support payment, the court shall order the obligee to pay to the obligor attorney’s fees and all court costs in addition to the amount of support paid after the date the child support order terminated. For good cause shown, the court may waive the requirement that the obligee pay attorney’s fees and costs if the court states the reasons supporting that finding.