If you are in the middle of a divorce or have simply split up with the parent of your child, you may have some anxiety about child support. There are many rumors floating around about how much a person will be forced to pay in child support, or how courts calculate the amount paid. While it is never easy to deal with the break up of a relationship and/or the loss of primary custody of a child, a Houston child support attorney can give you peace of mind when it comes to the process of determining child support.
Under the law, child support in Texas is calculated using a formula that takes into consideration your income, the child support guidelines, and any factors that may justify deviation from that formula. A seasoned Houston child support attorney can work with you to help you put forth the strongest possible argument for your case.
The Purpose of Child Support
Child support is not intended to punish the non-custodial parent. Instead, its purpose is to essentially share the financial burden of raising a child with the parent with primary custody of the child. In determining child support orders, the court looks to the best interests of the child.
In both divorce and child custody cases, child support is ordered to help the custodial parent both support the child and provide an adequate standard of living. If you are the parent who will be paying child support, the amount that you will be paying will be based not solely on your current income, but on all resources available to you.
The Child Support Determination
In Texas, there is a three-step process to determine a non-custodial parent’s responsibility for child support:
- Determine the amount of income and resources available for support of the child;
- Apply the child support guidelines from the Texas Family Code to the net resources available, as determined in step 1;
- Consider any factors that may justify an additional or lesser amount of child support based on your family’s specific circumstances.
The most challenging aspect of child support cases is often determining what will be calculated as part of your “net resources.” An experienced Houston child support attorney can utilize the Texas Family Code and prior cases to analyze your specific situation and determine what the court will likely decide your net resources are.
What Are Net Resources?
According to the Texas Family Code, net resources include wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, overtime, tips, interest, dividends, royalty income, rental income, severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, Social Security (excluding supplemental income), unemployment benefits, disability benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, interest on notes, gifts, prizes, spousal maintenance, alimony, and self-employment income. Each of these items will likely be fairly easy to calculate, as they are all the type of items that will likely be included on your tax returns.
There are some other resources that could be considered for purposes of child support. This may include a personal injury award and an inheritance. In addition, you may be able to have your spousal maintenance support payments reduced in order to pay additional child support if necessary. This may be the case if your child has special needs or otherwise requires support beyond the usual statutory amount.
What About Underemployment?
Many people who are subject to child support orders have been accused of intentional underemployment. In other words, they are working for less money on purpose in order to avoid paying child support. For example, if you routinely made $75,000 per year working as a freelance consultant prior to the child support order, and then made $40,000 the year leading up to the court case, the judge may find that you were intentionally making less in order to reduce your child support obligation. In that situation, the court may find that you are liable for the amount that you would owe if you were working at full capacity — $75,000 per year — rather than $40,000. A skilled Houston child support attorney can work with you to demonstrate that you are not intentionally underemployed, and instead may have had a downturn in business that has led to a reduced income.
Getting Down to Numbers
While the exact amount of child support owed will vary based on the considerations and formula set forth above, the court will utilize a percentage (starting at 20%) multiplied against the paying parent’s monthly net resources to determine how much child support is to be paid. For every additional child (up to five children), an extra 5% is added to the total monthly responsibility, for a total of 40% of net monthly resources to be paid towards support of their children. However, if a person has children who are not subject to the child support order, that percentage is reduced by 2.5%. For example, if a father has two children from a previous relationship and is in the middle of a divorce with his wife. If he is ordered to pay 25% of his net resources for child support for his two children with his ex-wife, that 25% is then reduced by 5% (2.5% times 2) because of his two children from his prior relationship who are not subject to the order. This means that his child support is reduced to 20% of his monthly net resources.
Child support cases can be tricky, whether they involve divorce or simply child custody. With an experienced family attorney, Houston residents can receive the best possible outcome for their case. Call our office today at (713) 333-5800 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.