In Texas, as throughout the country, all parents are legally required to support their children. This is true whether the parents are married or unmarried, whether they live together or separately, and whether the children live with them or not. Though this may seem a simple concept, the details of child support can easily become complicated and troublesome. This is when you need a capable family law attorney to assist you. If you live in West Texas, contacting Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C. is a wise move.

How Child Support is Calculated in Texas

In Texas, child support payments are based on the “Income Shares Model,” a model designed to make certain that both parents contribute proportionally to meet their children’s financial needs. Using this method, the court considers the following factors in determining child support:

  1. Monthly net income of each parent, including wages, bonuses, self-employment income, income from rental properties and investments, minus deductions, such as taxes and union dues.
  2. The Texas Family Code (TFC) provides percentage guidelines for calculating child support based on how many children the noncustodial spouse has:
  • 20% of net income for 1 child
  • 25% for 2 children
  • 30% for 3 children
  • 35% for 4 children
  • 40% for 5 or more children 

In addition to basic child support, parents are also expected to share costs for health insurance, daycare, and extracurricular activities.

  1. Custody Arrangements and parenting time also impact child support calculations. The more time the noncustodial parent spends caring for the child, the lower their support obligations are likely to be.
  2. Child Support Caps limit the amount the noncustodial parent is obligated to pay. These caps are adjusted annually.

Enforcement of Child Support Payments

Because the child’s daily well-being depends on child support payments, these payments must be made in a timely fashion. To ensure that they are, the state of Texas has several mechanisms in place to facilitate and enforce them. These include:

  • Income Withholding Orders

In most cases, child support orders are processed through automatic income withholding, meaning that the child support payment is automatically deducted from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck by their employer.

  • State Disbursement Unit (SDU)

All child support payments must go through the Texas SDU, which records payments and ensures proper distribution to the custodial parent.

  • Enforcement Agencies

In Texas, the Child Support Division uses various methods to enforce payment, including driver’s license suspension, passport denial, and even criminal charges in cases of extreme noncompliance.

  • Property Liens

If child support payments remain unpaid, the state may place liens on the noncustodial parent’s property, making it difficult for them to sell or transfer assets.

  • Altered Credit Ratings

Non-payment of child support can negatively impact the delinquent parent’s credit score, making it difficult for them to obtain loans or credit cards.

Child Support Modifications

Child support orders sometimes require modification due to changes in the circumstances of one or both parents. Reasons for modifications include:

  • Either parent’s significant increase or decrease in income
  • Change in custody or visitation arrangements
  • Unexpected medical expenses for the child that are not covered by insurance
  • A child reaches the age of majority or becomes self-supporting
  • Either parent relocates, affecting visitation and, therefore, child support calculations

It should be noted that informal child support modifications are not generally enforceable under Texas law, so it’s essential to work with a knowledgeable child support attorney if changes to the child support agreement become necessary.

Duration of Child Support in Texas

Child support in Texas typically continues until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. Exceptions are made, however, if the child is:

  • Disabled and unable to become self-supporting
  • Emancipated by getting married, joining the military (with parental consent), or becoming legally emancipated before the age of 18 
  • Over the age of 18, but both parents have agreed to support them, for example, while the child pursues higher education

Updates to the Texas Family Code Regarding Child Support

On September 1, 2023, Senate Bill 869 introduced the following amendments to the Texas Family Code:

1. Overdue Child Support & Inheritance

Now, when a parent who owes child support payments comes into an inheritance, they are forbidden to transfer these assets to another person. Instead, they must use them to settle the outstanding child support debt. 

2. Electronic Signatures and Email Addresses

Electronic signatures are now acceptable on waivers of citation in a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship and email addresses are now included to improve communication with parents.

3. Social Security Disability Lump Sum Payments

Any lump sum Social Security Disability payment to a child, received as a direct result of their parent’s SSD payment can be used to offset the parent’s child support or medical expense payments owed.

4. Child Support Arrears Cannot Be Reduced

The amendments stipulate that child support arrears can no longer be lessened, thus bringing Texas law in line with federal law. 

5. No More Limit on Renewable Child Support Liens

The 10-year limit on child support liens no longer applies, so such liens remain in effect indefinitely, and expired liens on real property can now be renewed.

6. Paternity Suits Without Biological Father’s Location

Paternity suits can now continue even when the presumed father, identified through DNA testing as not being the biological father, cannot be found. The presumed father may be the husband of the child’s mother or the man who has voluntarily acknowledged his paternity.

Contact Our Skilled Child Support Attorneys Today

As you can see, the laws about child support in Texas are complex and can be difficult to decipher. Whether you are seeking support for your child from the child’s other parent or are concerned about your responsibilities in providing support for your child, you need one of the accomplished attorneys of Navarrete & Schwartz. We will make your best interests and the best interests of your child our top priority and give you the counsel and representation only an experienced, competent legal team can.