The emotions tied to going through a divorce are complex all on their own. So it is understandable that when it comes to discussing finances and child custody that it brings up a plethora of questions. Among the common questions we hear are:
How is child support calculated in Texas?
How much is the average child support in Texas?
Can you ever get more than the maximum guideline?
While the Attorney General of Texas does provide a calculator online for estimating monthly child support payments, high-asset couples and couples with significant expenses for their children should consider working with both a family law attorney and a financial advisor. Consider these professionals as your support team for getting the best guidance through the divorce process.
“There is a growing misconception among some that child support should only cover a child’s bare necessities, such as food and clothing. In truth, child support is meant to cover a broad range of expenses, which may include school fees, entertainment, medical, and extracurricular activities, among other things.” (Source: FindLaw)
What are the basic necessities for child support?
The costs of housing, transportation, food, and clothing for your child (or children) are the basic costs for child support. The custodial parent pays the mortgage or rent payments, buys groceries and clothes, and provides transportation for the child, while the non-custodial parent contributes to these expenses by paying child support. Child support is supposed to cover reasonable and necessary “proven needs,” which is much broader than the list of bare necessities and greatly varies from one family to the next.
“Medical support is additional child support a parent is ordered to pay (over and above the monthly child support paid to the other parent) to cover the cost of health insurance and uninsured medical expenses for a child.
A parent can be ordered to pay medical support by:
- providing health insurance coverage for the child, or
- paying the other parent for the cost of health insurance coverage, or
- paying cash medical support if the child receives Medicaid.” (TexasLawHelp)
Additionally, the cost of uninsured medical expenses are usually split 50/50. But they may be negotiated to a different allocation such as the situation where there is a significant income disparity between the parents.
What if Your Child Attends Private School?
There are several fees or educational costs that must be paid to support school-aged children, whether they are in public or private school. Speak with your family law attorney about how child support may be used to pay for school-related needs. This may include tuition fees, textbooks, uniforms, lunch money, and private tutors. Your family history of what you’ve done in the past may be a factor in determining in court whether your children can continue to attend private school post-divorce.
Texas Child Support: Things You Should Know
As an Austin, Texas family law attorney, I see child support issues come up all the time – in divorce cases, child custody cases, child support enforcement cases, child support modification cases, paternity cases, and even in adoption/termination cases.
Texas applies percentage guidelines to calculate child support. In a nutshell, the state of Texas figures out your NET income (after taxes, costs for health insurance, and a few other things), then multiplies that figure by a percentage which has been defined by a statute and “presumed” to be in the best interest of the child.
What many people don’t understand are the factors which a judge can consider in reducing or increasing the presumptive amount of child support. The Texas Family Code provides a list of those factors. Chief among those is the costs that the non-custodial parent may be paying in order to exercise visitation. For example, it is common for a custodial parent to move out of state shortly after a divorce (unless there is a geographical restriction, but that’s a different subject). In doing so, the custodial parent is engaging in conduct that will increase the non-custodial parent’s cost of exercising visitation, even if the parties split the costs.
The Texas Family Code also provides that continuing and frequent contact between the non-custodial parent and the child is in the best interest of the child. So the Court will often reduce child support to account for those increased costs. The Court can also simply require the custodial parent to pay 100% of the travel costs, which (I think) is a much better idea. That way, the actual costs of visitation are taken on by the custodial parent, rather than paying the hypothetical costs. For instance, reducing child support isn’t really fair to the custodial parent if the non-custodial parent doesn’t exercise any of his or her visitation.
LIVING IN SEPARATE STATES
The previous example assumed the custodial parent moved first, and is therefore the cause of the increased cost of visitation. What about if the parents are already living in different states at the time of the suit? Or if the non-custodial parent moves to get a better job? The Court can still reduce child support to account for the increased cost of visitation if the Court is convinced that it is necessary to help the non-custodial parent be able to visit his child and therefore is in the “best interest” of the child.
SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD
What about getting more child support than what’s called for by the percentage guidelines?
That’s also a possibility under the Texas Family Code. Occasionally, a child is considered to be a “special needs” child if he or she requires an extraordinary amount of financial support (uninsured medical expenses, special education, etc.). In such cases, the Court will look at the parents’ respective ability to pay those costs and may increase the statutory amount of child support to account for the child’s needs. The actual “proven needs” of the child are the issues in each case, regardless of whether there are “special needs” for emotional, physical or the educational welfare of a child.
Raising a child is expensive. After the emotions of a divorce, it’s important for each parent to uphold their obligation to provide financial support for his or her child. This includes food, home, clothes, education, medical care, and yes, even entertainment. If you are looking for support during your divorce or thinking about filing a child support claim, find a legal advocate who can clearly explain the intricacies of child support. You may contact us at Capps Law Firm, PLLC to speak with an experienced family law attorney based in the greater Austin area.
Schedule an Initial Consultation with a lawyer and learn more about child support costs, support modifications, child custody modifications, or the enforcement of orders in Texas. Simply call Capps Law Firm, PLLC, at 512-410-2453 or email our Austin office today.