What is Child Support?

Child support is a monthly payment that a parent makes to help cover the costs of raising a child.  The Attorney General of Texas refers to the parent who receives child support as being the "obligee" and the parent who pays child support is referred to as the "obligor."  


Can the obligor be ordered to pay child support indefinitely?   

Typically, the obligor must pay child support until the child turns 18.  Support may continue beyond 18 years of age if the child is still in high school. The support period could be shorter if the child marries or registers a domestic partnership, joins the military, or otherwise becomes emancipated.  Parents can also agree for child support to continue for a longer period of time or, if a child is unable to become self-supporting due to a disability, the court could order continued support.


How is the amount of support determined?

The amount of child support is based on a mathematical formula.   Texas Family Code establishes the maximum statutory guidelines for child support based on maximum net monthly resources of $8,550.   A court presumes that the number given by the statutory guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support, but this presumption may be overcome by extenuating factors.  

By way of illustration, if the obligor has net monthly resources of $100,000 and 1 child to support, then the maximum amount of child support that the court could order based on the statutory guidelines is $1,710 (20% of $8,550).  Of course, the parties could always agree on a higher amount or the obligee may be able to overcome the presumption that the statutory guidelines is in the child's best interest.


Can the obligor pay support that is below the statutory guidelines?  


Parents can agree that the obligor will pay less than the statutory guidelines.   However, absent a mediated settlement agreement, the court must approve the final amount.  Generally, a court will only approve an agreement between the parents for support that is below the statutory guidelines if the obligee acknowledges that the obligee was fully aware of his/her rights concerning support and was not forced into the agreement.  The parties must also satisfy the court that the lower amount is in the child’s best interest and that the child’s needs will be met.   If the Office of the Attorney General of Texas has intervened, then they must approve the lower child support amount as well. 



How are the obligor's net monthly resources calculated?


Net monthly financial resources is the difference between gross monthly financial resources and what the Texas Family Code allows as deductions for child support purposes (e.g., federal income taxes, social security / medicare taxes, health insurance premium for the child only, union dues).   Gross net monthly financial resources include everything from salaries and commissions to unemployment and social security benefits.  Pretty much any financial source, including lottery winnings, is included as part of the obligor's gross monthly financial resources.   


What if the obligor is unemployed or underemployed?  


The court can "impute" income, meaning, come up with an amount of income that the court believes the obligor should be earning based on factors such as employment history, education, and training.  Generally, without evidence of intentional unemployment or intentional underemployment, the court will impute income based on minimum wage. 




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