When a noncustodial parent must pay child support in Texas, it is calculated by multiplying the paying parent's net income by a statutory percentage explained below.
Net Income Calculation
A calculation of net income begins with the parent's gross income, which includes salary, commissions, overtime pay, tips, bonuses, interest, dividends, rental income, royalty income, trust income, retirement income, disability income, and any other source of funds. It even includes prizes, gifts, and alimony from a previous marriage. It’s best to calculate gross income as an annual figure. Once the figure for gross income is set, subtract the following (also computed annually):
- Social Security taxes or, if the paying parent doesn’t pay Social Security taxes, any mandatory retirement plan contributions
- federal income tax (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
- union dues
- health insurance premiums and other medical expenses for the child(ren) if the court ordered the paying parent to pay these expenses.
The resulting figure is the parent’s annual net income. Divide the net income by 12 to establish monthly net income. Learn more about Child Support Guidelines.
Number of Children to be Supported
Once you’ve established the noncustodial parent’s net monthly income, multiply that number by a percentage that’s determined by how many children the paying parent is supporting.
1 child = multiply the monthly net income by 20%
2 children = multiply the monthly net income by 25%
3 children = multiply the monthly net income by 30%
4 children = multiply the monthly net income by 35%
5 children = multiply the monthly net income by 40%
For 6 or more children, the amount must be at least the same as for five children
If a paying parent’s net income is greater than $7,500 per month, the child support calculation applies only to the first $7,500; after that, the court may order additional support if the circumstances warrant a higher payment—but the additional amount can be no greater than “the proven needs of the child.” A parent who believes that guideline support is too high or too low can ask the court to make an adjustment, and there’s a long list of factors that the judge can consider, in Texas Family Code Section 154.123. Note, a parent who has an obligation to support multiple children living in different households will pay slightly less than the guideline amount for children living in the same household, based on some rather complicated calculations contained in Texas Family Code Section 154.128. Learn more about Child Custody.
How long must the paying parent pay child support?
A noncustodial parent is required to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18; the court can order support to continue until a child graduates from high school if the child is enrolled and regularly attending. A court may order child support for an indefinite period if the child is physically or mentally disabled. Child support can also end if the child marries or enlists in the military, becomes legally emancipated, or marries. As a part of a divorce settlement, the paying parent may agree to continue supporting a child through college, or the parents can agree to share college expenses.
How is child support paid?
Every child support order in Texas contains an income withholding order (IWO) that requires the paying parent’s employer to withhold the child support amount from the paying parent’s paycheck and send it to the state child support enforcement agency or a local registry, which in turn sends it to the other parent. However, self-employed parents or those who work on commission aren’t subject to income withholding orders and must pay support directly to the other parent. Parents can also agree to direct payments. However, having payments go through an agency or registry means that there’s a clear record of payments, which is helpful in an action for enforcement.
If I am being denied access to my children, do I still have to pay my child support?
Yes. Texas law is clear that even if the other parent is denying you visitation, you are still required to pay your support and you can still be held in contempt for failure to pay. If you are being denied access to your children, you should pursue an enforcement action against the parent denying you access.
Am I required to guarantee child support payments with a life insurance policy?
You are not required, under Texas law, to guarantee your child support with a life insurance policy. However, many parents receiving support ask the paying parent to purchase a policy for that purpose, and some judges will include a provision in the divorce judgment requiring that the paying parent have life insurance. If you have an existing policy, the courts may require that you maintain your children as beneficiaries as long as you are required to pay child support.
Can the amount of child support be changed?
A child support order can be modified if circumstances change (or if enough time passes). A parent who is unable to pay child support because of losing a job or other financial problems can ask the court to modify the support order downward. A parent who is receiving support can ask for an increase based on the other parent getting a better job or otherwise earning or receiving more money, or based on changes in the receiving parent’s income or resources. In order to qualify for a modification of support, the person asking for the change must be able to show that the circumstances of the child or either parent have substantially changed since the order was made, unless three years have passed since the order was made. If three years have passed, then the person asking for the change must show that the amount of support under the current guidelines would differ by at least 20% or $100 from the original amount ordered. Only a court can change the amount of child support. Don’t rely on the other parent’s word that it’s okay to pay less support—you can always be required to pay the amount that was originally ordered, no matter how long the other parent waits to ask for it and no matter what verbal agreements you made.
What happens if someone doesn’t pay child support?
A parent who fails to pay child support can be subject to any of the following methods of collection:
- Wage garnishment
- Collection of lottery winnings
- Interception of federal income tax refunds
- Suspension or revocation of any driver’s licenses, professional or business licenses, or even fishing licenses
- Suspension of passport
- Contempt of court orders, which may result in prison or fines or both
Learn more about Child Support.