Texas Child Support Payment Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and answers regarding Texas law for calculating and paying monthly child support.

By , Attorney

Regardless of your relationship status, if you have children and you're not living with the other parent, it's likely the court will award child support. Child support is a payment from a noncustodial parent to cover the child's necessary expenses.

When a noncustodial parent must pay child support in Texas, the judge calculates support 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, and
  • 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. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 154 (B) § 154.062.)

Number of Children Supported

Once you've established the noncustodial parent's net monthly income, multiply that number by a child support 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. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 154 (C) § 154.125 (b).)

Example Support Calculation

Support calculation for a parent with $2,000 net monthly income and two children: $2,000 (net monthly income) x .25 (25% for two children) = $500 per month in monthly child support.

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 using $7,500 for the calculation, 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." (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 154 (B) § 154.125 (a).)

A parent who believes that guideline support is too high or too low can ask the court to adjust it, but before deviating from the guidelines, the judge must consider a variety of factors. You can view the factors in the Texas Family Code Section 154.123.

Note, a parent who is court-ordered 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. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 154 (C) § 154.128.)

Although the state of Texas does not provide an on-line calculator, Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, provides an estimator on this government website.

When Does Child Support End in Texas?

A noncustodial parent is required to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18 or 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, enlists in the military, or becomes legally emancipated.

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. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 154 (A) § 154.001.)

How Do I Pay Child Support?

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. Once the employer withholds the funds, it must then send it to the state child support enforcement agency or a local registry. The agency will send payments to the recipient parent. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 154 (A) § 154.007.)

The court may order periodic payments (bi-weekly or monthly), lump-sum payments, an annuity purchase, payment by transfer of property, or any combination of payments that the court finds necessary to meet the child's needs. The judge will include detailed instructions to the paying parent in the court order.

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. Most recipients will enroll in direct deposit through the state's child support agency.

Parents can bypass the IWO and 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.

Get more detailed information about understanding and calculating child support in Texas, read our article Understanding Child Support in Texas.

My Ex Won't Let Me See My Children, Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support?

Yes. Texas law is clear that even if the other parent is denying visitation, you are still required to pay your support—the court will hold you in contempt for failure to pay. If the custodial parent denies you access to your children, you should pursue a custody enforcement action against your child's other parent.

Am I Required to Guarantee Child Support Payments With a Life Insurance Policy?

You aren't required 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 I Change the Amount of Child Support?

Either parent can request a modification of a child support order 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.

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 last order. For example, if the court ordered you to pay support and you become seriously ill and can't work, the court will review the order to determine whether the amount is still appropriate.

If there isn't a substantial change, but it's been at least three years since the original order, then the person asking for the change may be able to obtain a modification by showing 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—the court will always expect you to pay the court-ordered support amount, no matter how long the other parent waits to ask for it and no matter what verbal agreements you made. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 156 (E) § 156.401.)

What Happens If Someone Doesn't Pay Child Support?

Failure to pay child support is a violation of law and is a serious offense. 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 fishing licenses
  • suspension of passport, and
  • contempt of court orders, which may result in prison or fines or both. (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. Chapter 157.)

If your ex isn't paying court-ordered child support, you can file a formal request for court intervention at the courthouse that created the original order. If necessary, the court will begin the process of finding out why the paying parent isn't paying properly. The court may send a letter or require the paying parent to appear in court to explain the missed payments.

Can I Deduct Child Support on My Taxes?

No. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not offer a tax deduction for parents paying child support. Additionally, the custodial parent does not have to claim the payments as income for tax purposes.

If you have questions about child support, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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