Departures from the Texas Child Support Guidelines

child support guidelines moneyThough the Texas child support guidelines are generally a reasonable template for calculating child support obligations, every situation is unique, and sometimes there is room for deviation. If there is evidence that justifies a variance from the guidelines in the best interest of the child, the court may order child support payments in an amount different from what was calculated under them.

In determining whether the application of the child support guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances, the court will consider evidence of all relevant factors, including:

  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 (person receiving child support) net resources, including their earning potential if their actual income is significantly less than what they could earn because they are 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 (person paying child support) 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. Texas Family Code Sec. 154.123(b).

The amount of a periodic child support payment established by the child support guidelines in effect in this state is presumed to be reasonable, and an order of support conforming to the guidelines is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. However, when a family’s circumstances don’t fit well with the guidelines, a court may determine that its application would be unjust.

To learn more about how payments are calculated under the Texas child support guidelines, click here to read our previous blog on the subject. You can also visit the FAQ on the Texas Attorney General’s website for more information on child support in Texas.

If you need to seek modification of Texas child support obligations, you should hire an attorney to take you through the formal legal process. At Helene Parker & Associates, L.L.C., Ms. Parker is an experienced and compassionate child support attorney. Our staff prides ourselves on keeping our clients informed, explaining their options, and providing thorough representation of their interests in court. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your case.

Texas Child Support Guidelines

child support guidelinesIn Texas, the amount of payment required for child support is calculated using guidelines found in the Texas Family Code. The person paying child support is called the obligor and the person receiving child support is called the obligee. In the majority of cases, the obligee is the person who has primary custody of the child, and is responsible for the daily living expenses of raising them.

Using the guidelines, the court will calculate net resources for the purpose of setting the amount of child support. Whenever feasible, gross income should first be computed on an annual basis and then be recalculated to determine average monthly gross income.

Resources include:

  1. 100 percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses);
  2. Interest, dividends, and royalty income;
  3. Self-employment income;
  4. Net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not non-cash items such as depreciation);
  5. All other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits other than supplemental security income, United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(17), unemployment benefits, disability and workers’ compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.

Resources do not include:

  1. Return of principal or capital;
  2. Accounts receivable;
  3. Benefits paid in accordance with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or another federal public assistance program; or
  4. Payments for foster care of a child.

The court will deduct the following items from resources to determine the net resources available for child support:

  1. Social security taxes;
  2. Federal income tax based on the tax rate for single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction; (the tax chart deducts 1 & 2 above)
  3. State income taxes;
  4. Union dues;
  5. Expenses for the cost of health insurance or cash medical support for the obligor’s child ordered by the court under Section 154.182; and
  6. If the obligor does not pay social security taxes, non discretionary retirement plan contributions (where the employee is required to contribute as a condition of employment, like school teachers under the Texas Retirement System).

The guidelines for child support are based on the assumption that the court will order the obligor to provide medical support for the child in addition to the amount of child support calculated by guidelines. The amount of the deduction for the child’s health care coverage will be calculated differently if the obligor has other minor dependents covered under the same health insurance plan for whom he or she has a legal duty to support. The court will divide the total cost to the obligor for the minor dependents’ insurance by the total number of minor dependents (including the child for whom support is being calculated) covered under the plan.

The child support guidelines are designed to apply to the obligor’s monthly net resources of $7500 or less. The percentages applied against the obligor’s net resources for the children before the court are the following: 20% for one child; 25% for two children; 30% for three; 35% for four; and 40% for five. These percentages are reduced slightly for each child not before the court for whom the obligor owes a legal duty to support. In certain circumstances the court may vary from the child support guidelines and order above or below guideline support, but that’s a topic for next week’s blog.

For more information on child support in Texas, you can visit the FAQ on the Attorney General’s website. There is also a monthly child support calculator available on the site. You can also read our blog about departures from the Texas child support guidelines to learn about circumstances where the guidelines may not apply.

If you need to seek modification of your Texas child support obligations, or if you need to enforce someone else’s child support responsibilities, contact Helene Parker & Associates, L.L.C. today to schedule a free consultation about your case. We serve clients in Denton, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Carrollton, Lewisville, The Colony, Little Elm, Flower Mound, Frisco, and surrounding areas.

How Does Texas Child Support Work?

Child Support is one of most important parts of any divorce case involving children. For most divorcing parents there is a desire to make sure that their children are cared for properly. Part of how is this happens is through child support payments. Parents are assigned financial responsibility for a child even if only one parent has possession of the child.

Texas Child Support

Texas child support is governed by Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code. A court may order either or both parents to support a child; though usually the non-custodial parent pays the child support, as the custodial parent pays for the daily costs of raising the child. The amount of child support is determined by the court without regard to the sex of the payer or payee, or child; or the marital status of the parents of the child. Child support continues (1) until a child is 18 years of age or until high school graduation, whichever occurs later; (2) until the child is emancipated through marriage, through removal of the disabilities of minority by court order, or by other operation of law; (3) until death of the child; or (4) if the child is disabled as defined in chapter 154 for an indefinite period.

Payments

Child support may be paid in a number of ways including periodic payments, a lump sum payment, an annuity purchase, setting aside property to be administered for the support of the child, or any combination of these methods. The court may also order a parent to pay retroactive child support under certain circumstances.

Support payments must be paid to the state disbursement unit as provided by chapter 234, and if made in periodic payments, will be withheld by the payer’s employer. The court can also order a trustee to make disbursements for child support on behalf of a spendthrift or other trust. If disbursement of the assets of the trust is discretionary, the court may order child support payments from the income of the trust, but not from the principal.

Medical Support

Medical support is also provided for the child under child support. The guidelines are based on the assumption that the court will order the person paying child support to provide medical support for the child in addition to child support. The court can order that they provide health insurance for the child or to reimburse the person that is receiving child support the amount of the health insurance premium attributable to the child, if that person is providing health insurance for the child. Health care expenses not paid by insurance are paid by the parents of the child, usually on a 50/50 basis.

A court cannot render an order that ties the payment of child support to access to the child. Courts have held that the non-payment of child support does not allow the custodial parent to withhold possession or access. Similarly, courts have held that not allowing possession or access does not allow the payer to withhold the payment of child support.

Paying child support is an expectation of the State of Texas in a divorce case involving children. How that amount is determined is the subject of another blog, which you canread here. However, it is important for any parent to remember that the parents of a child remain the parents even after the divorce has ended. Therefore, participation in the cost of raising a child is the responsibility of both parents following the divorce.

Source: Texas Family Code Chapter 154

International Child Abduction or “Hague Convention” Cases

International Child Abduction is a global problem touching many parents and children around the world.

These cases can take time and can be very complicated for the individuals involved.

International Child Abduction happens when:
• A child is taken from his or her home country into another country by a former spouse or partner without legal authority or without your permission; or
• A child is wrongfully retained by the parent in another country in violation of a court order.

The law governing these types of cases is the “Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction”, or known simply as “the Hague Convention”.

How International Child Abduction Works
The Hague Convention applies only to countries that are signatories to this Convention. The procedure to recover a child who has been wrongfully removed from his or her country of habitual residence or retained by the offending spouse is complex and must meet certain statutory requirements.
An example of a wrongful removal: Mom is a citizen or national of a foreign country. Dad is a citizen or national of the United States. Mom and dad may or may not have been married, but they have a court order in the United States that provides for each parent’s right of access and right of custody. To prevent Dad from having access to and possession of the child, Mom takes the child and travels to a foreign country with the intent of keeping the child from Dad. If the court order does not allow Mom to remove the child from the United States for the purpose of relocation (not on a vacation) without Dad’s explicit authority or permission, then this would be considered a wrongful removal.
An example of a wrongful retention: Mom is a U.S. citizen or national. Dad is a citizen or national of the United Kingdom. The parties have a court order from the U.S. that governs Dad’s visitation time. The child travels to the U.K. to visit Dad. During Dad’s visitation with the child, Dad decides that the child should remain in the U.K. in violation of the court order, and keeps the child beyond the time allowed by the court order. This situation would be considered a wrongful retention.
There are situations when one parent removes the child from his or her habitual country of residence and takes the child to another country that is not a signatory of the Hague Convention or is considered a dangerous area of the world. In those cases, it is imperative that the parent act quickly to recover the child.
International Child Abduction cases are labor intensive and fact intensive; there is also a short deadline to seek redress. If you are facing an abduction situation, then you should work quickly to get legal help to recover your child.

Our Texas law firm, Helene Parker & Associates, L.L.C has successfully helped our clients recover their children in international child abduction cases.

Our job is to represent you and assist you with:
• Filing a Hague Convention application with the U.S. Department of State;
• Communicate with the U.S. Department of State and foreign authorities;
• Filing a petition with a U.S. District Court or a state court to safeguard your rights and recover your child;
• Navigating the legal system to recover your child;
• Drafting the appropriate orders to protect your child.
Hague Convention or International Child Abduction cases involve the removal or retention of children by their parents. If your child has been abducted by a stranger, then you must seek immediate assistance from Federal law enforcement. However, in cases involving dispute over custody or abduction by a parent, call us at Helene Parker & Associates L.L.C. for a consultation and assistance.