Child Support


The information in this article applies to the State of Texas ONLY!

Who Pays Support?

Parents of children in Texas who do not reside in the same household are obligated to provide support for their children. This is usually the result of a divorce or separation if the parents are married. A child support obligation also arises when parents separate who resided together but have not been married to each other, or from the birth of a child to parents who do not and have never resided together.

How is support calculated?

The State of Texas has created and implemented a mathematical formula to calculate the amount of support a parent will pay who does not live with the child (called the “noncustodial parent” or “NCP”). The formula is presumed to be in the best interest of the child and is used by all judges, agencies and attorneys calculating child support in Texas. Very rarely, a judge will, with evidence presented according to specific guidelines, vary from the formula. The exception is for instances in which the NCP’s income exceeds the maximum amount under the child support guidelines ($7500 net income). For the most part, it is safe to assume that the mathematical formula will apply up the maximum net income of $7500.

How is the child support formula applied?

How is the formula used? Start with the NCP’s net resources (which includes gross wage and salary income, including overtime, self-employment income, and various other types of income, but does not include the income from a new spouse). Using an Office of the Attorney General Child Support Tax Chart (updated each year), which can be found in the Texas Family Code Sec. 154.061, deduct FICA, Medicare, and Federal Income Taxes per the chart, not from a paycheck, calculate the net monthly income of the NCP. The net monthly income, which results, should be multiplied by 20% for one child, 25% for two children, and 30% for three children, up to a maximum of 40%. The percentages are reduced somewhat if the NCP is obligated to support other children not of the same relationship. Note that the calculation for self-employment income is more complicated and not easily subject to using the formula because it is not readily obvious what exactly net resources are for a self-employed person.

How long does child support last?

The NCP is obligated to pay child support until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes last. For special needs children, support can continue past those times. For parents of more than one child, child support decreases as each child turns 18 or graduates from high school. It does not, however, decrease, for example, 50% if there are two children and one child turns 18 or graduate from high school; or 33% if there are three children and one child turns 18 or graduate from high school. It decreases so that the NCP is paying the guideline percentage. If there were two children under age 18 when the support was ordered and now there is one, that percentage would be 20% of the NCP’s net income, for example. These “step-downs” are required to be in the child support order.

How is the child support paid?

Texas law mandates that child support be paid through wage withholding, which means that the NCP’s employer will be ordered to withhold the child support once a court order is signed for child support. Texas law further mandates that all child support be paid through the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit in San Antonio. The employer sends the child support to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit and payment is then made to the custodial parent (CP). Obviously, there will be no wage withholding for a person who has no employer or a self-employed person. For those persons paying child support, the NCP must send the payments directly to the Disbursement Unit. It is important to realize that paying through the Disbursement Unit benefits both parents because it serves as “prima facie” evidence, or “a fact presumed to be true unless it is disproved.” This means that both the NCP and CP always have a record available through the Disbursement website of what payments have been, so that canceled checks and money order receipts do not have to be scrounged for, etc., if there is a dispute over the amounts paid.

Can the child support amount be changed?

The child support amount can be changed by court order only. For the NCP, if you lose your job or your pay substantially decreases, you should immediately contact either the Texas Attorney General or a private lawyer. The child support amount will stay the same even if your pay is less, until the court actually signs an order reducing it. It is therefore important to act as soon as possible because getting a court order can take a significant amount of time and you can be obligated for the original amount for several months after you file for a decrease in support. For the CP, you are entitled to a review by the Texas Attorney General every three years after a court order has been signed to see if the child support should be increased. The Attorney General, because of the volume of its cases, will only review the child support every three years. If you know that the NCP’s pay has increased substantially and three years have not passed, you are entitled to contact a private lawyer to file for an increase in support.

Helpful Links on Child Support in Texas

Attorney General of Texas – Greg Abbott

Texas Bar College


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