For couples with children, when contemplating a divorce, child support is an issue that inevitably comes up. There is often a fear of the unknown when it comes to child support. If you are the custodial parent, you might wonder—is it enough to supplement my income and provide for my children? If you are the non-custodial parent and must pay, you might worry that the support order will be difficult for you to afford each month. In either situation, knowing the process for determining the amount of the child support order can make it much easier to budget. This article will address the method for determining the amount of monthly child support in Texas as well as address a few of the income-related questions concerned parents often have.
What is the Process for Calculating Child Support?
Texas has a fairly straightforward approach to determining child support, using income calculations and a chart based on number of children in the case. This section will list the steps involved in the process as well as a description of what each step entails.
Determine Gross Income
Before a child support amount can be calculated, it is necessary to determine the total yearly gross income for the parent who will be the payor. Gross income is money obtained from all sources including:
- Wages and salary, including tips, commission, bonuses, overtime pay, etc.
- Self-employment income
- Net rental income, including the amount left after deducting expenses such as mortgage payments and other operating expenses
- Any other income received including things such as pensions, annuities, disability benefits, severance pay, trust income, capital gains, social security, etc.
*Gross income does not include income from the following sources:
- Payments received for providing foster care services
- Unpaid accounts receivable
- Income earned from a new spouse
- Benefits received through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Determine the Average Monthly Gross Income
This step is simple and straightforward. Take the yearly gross income total from step one, and divide by twelve. This amount is the average monthly gross income.
Determine Average Monthly Net Income:
Net income is the amount of money left over after subtracting deductions from the gross income. The following is a list of some of the allowable deductions when calculating child support in Texas:
All federal income taxes paid at the single rate with one personal deduction and a standard deduction
- All state income taxes
- Social security taxes
- Money paid for health insurance for the child or cash payments in lieu of insurance
- All union dues
Determine the Amount of Monthly Child Support
Child support in Texas is based on net monthly income and number of children in the case. There is a cap on the net monthly income up to $9,200. This cap is readjusted every six years, with the next cap scheduled to readjust in September of 2026. The amount may also be adjusted by the court if the payor is currently paying child support under another case. There are some exceptions, which will be discussed later, but the basic guidelines are as follows:
- One child = 20 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income
- Two children = 25 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income
- Three children = 30 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income
- Four children = 35 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income
- Five children = 40 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income
- Six children = No less than 40 percent of the payor’s average monthly net income
What Happens if the Payor’s Income Exceeds the Established Cap?
If the payor’s average net monthly income exceeds the established cap (currently $9,200 per month), then it will be up to the court to determine if additional child support should be ordered. Generally, this might happen if the payor’s income greatly exceeds the cap, or if the needs of the child or children are greater than the amount of support established by the chart.
What If the Payor is Unemployed or Significantly Underemployed?
While cases are considered on an individual basis, most of the time the court uses past history to determine a payor’s ability to meet the set child support guidelines. So, if a payor has become unemployed, the court will look at the last several years of income to determine what the payor is likely able to earn in the future and will base child support calculations accordingly. This will most likely occur, even if there has been a recent job loss, a cut in overtime or bonuses, loss of commissions or major accounts, or most other events that the payor might have recently suffered. Different rules may apply to a payor who has become disabled. An attorney experienced in child support issues would be able to provide further guidance in this area.
Understand When to Hire a Lawyer to Help with Child Support Issues
Even though there is a seemingly clear-cut formula for calculating child support in Texas, there are still many factors that can impact the ultimate decision of the court regarding the final amount of child support. This is something that will affect your life potentially for many years to come, and it is important to make sure every circumstance is considered in your case. Computing the amount of child support you might be required to pay on your own is a nice way to get an idea of what you might expect, but it’s best to hire an attorney who can represent you with all of the knowledge and expertise required to navigate the court system efficiently and effectively.
If you are interested in learning more about hiring an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable about child support laws in Texas, please contact Illaraza Law at (214) 646-3253 today. We can provide a comprehensive consultation as well as all the information you need to make the best decision for your personal needs.