Child Support Calculation in Texas
Basic Calculation of Child Support Under Guidelines
To determine the appropriate amount of child support in any case, the divorce lawyer will first turn to the Texas Child Support Guidelines, which incorporates use a two tiered system for calculating monthly child support. For a parent obligor with net monthly resources of $8,550 or less, child support is calculated as a percentage of the obligor's monthly net resources--20% for one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three children, 35% for four children and 40% for five children. For six or more children before the court, the guidelines only specify that the percentage may not be less than the percentage for five children. If the parent paying child support has a duty to support other children, such as from a previous or subsequent marriage, the percentage is reduced according to a schedule set by statute to reflect such obligations. The resources of the parent receiving support are not considered under the guidelines. However, for an obligor parent with total net resources in excess of $8,550.00 per month the court may order additional amounts based upon the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.
Calculating Net Resources for Purpose of Child Support Calculations
While there are similarities, it is important to note that resources for child support purposes is not the equivalent of income for tax purposes. Generally, all sources of income are included as resources of a parent including gross wages, bonuses, interest, dividends, royalties, business profits, net rental income. pensions, trust income, social security benefits, veterans benefits (with certain exceptions), unemployment benefits, disability and worker's compensation and prizes. In addition, amounts received as gifts, spousal maintenance and alimony are also included. However, not included are payments representing a return of capital, receivables (i.e., amounts owed but not yet received) benefits under federal assistance programs, and payments for foster care of a child.
The court will then deduct the following items to determine the net resources of the parent: 1) social security taxes; 2) federal income tax withholding for a single person claiming one exemption and the standard deduction; 3) any state income tax withholding; 4) union dues; 5) expenses for court ordered health coverage of children (including dental effective 9/1/2018); and 6) if the person does not pay social security tax, any non discretionary retirement plan contributions.
Variations from the Texas Child Support Guidelines
Court's will typically follow the Texas Child Support Guidelines in calculating child support. Such calculations are presumptively fair and equitable. However, district courts are have broad discretion to consider other factors in setting child support payments upon a finding that the evidence warrants departure from the presumptive amount as calculated from the guidelines. Absent abuse of discretion, the district courts can consider any factor it deems relevant including the following:
(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
Your divorce lawyer will examine each of these and other factors to determine whether or not to seek a variance from the child support amount as calculated by the Texas Child Support Guidelines.