Understanding the Basics of Child Support

Child support is an emotional issue in most divorces. Yet, courts often spend very little time on this issue. The reason: child support is usually based on simple math. Under Texas law, there is a formula that calculates “guidelines” child support. This formula takes into account that parent’s wages, the number of children in that particular case (called “the number of children before the court”) and that parent’s total number of children.

Texas Family Code section 154.129 sets the method used to calculate child support.

When this chart is used to calculate support, it is presumed that the amount of child support is in the “best interest of the child.” The vast majority of divorces and SAPCRs (a suit affecting the parent-child relationship) utilize guidelines support. Despite how common guidelines support is, many attorneys hear the same questions and objections about child support:

  • “But my ex will just blow this money!” You cannot require the other parent to spend child support money specifically for that child. It is assumed that the support goes towards necessaries like groceries, shelter, childcare, clothes, etc. If you feel that your child isn’t receiving the proper nutrition, shelter, or care, then you need to contact an attorney because you may be able to modify the parent-child relationship and become the “primary” conservator for your child.
  • “I cannot afford ‘guidelines’ child support.” While every case is different, many judges may listen to your circumstances and still impose guidelines child support. The courts view it as their duty to ensure that the children from a relationship are adequately provided for, and child support is generally the most effective method to accomplish that goal. However, you should always give your attorney enough information so that he or she can make a persuasive argument to the court. The guidelines child support presumption could be rebutted with detailed information.
  • “I already support my kid by paying for x, y, z…” Sorry, but the court generally does not care if you are paying for extra things such as piano lessons, daycare, shoes, etc. If you are paying for these things, in addition to child support, then stop! Unless there is a court order requiring you to pay for specific additional costs, then you are under no obligation to make these extra payments. Your child support obligation comes first. The extra expenses are just that…extra. Your ex will pitch a fit when you stop, but your response should be, “Hey, that’s what my child support payment is for!”
  • “My friend only has to pay x%.” You don’t know if that amount was the result of an agreement, argument, or some other factor. Guidelines child support is frequently imposed by the courts. However, the attorneys (and you) are free to negotiate a different amount prior to any hearing. The low child support payment could indicate that the noncustodial parent was also ordered to pay for certain other expenses such as daycare costs, health insurance, or some other cost.

If you have a question regarding child support, please call the Fort Worth family law attorneys at Gardner & Smith, PLLC.