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Family Law


December 22, 2022


How to Calculate Child Support in Texas?

Any parent or guardian who receives or pays child support in Texas can benefit from understanding how child support in Texas is calculated. Like all states, Texas has a formula in place. Texas child support guidelines are designed to be straightforward, but there is flexibility. You can benefit tremendously from having experienced family law attorneys advocating for the best interests of you and your child.

If you are wondering how much child support you will get in Texas, this guide will explain the process of calculating it.

How Does Child Support Work in Texas?

Child support is the continued payment of money, from one parent to another, for the benefit of a child or children following a divorce or separation, or for the purpose of co-parenting. Specific amounts are based on child support laws in Texas. Support is meant to cover the basic needs of:

  • Food;
  • Clothing;
  • Shelter; 
  • Medical care (medical insurance); 
  • Dental care (dental insurance). 

Child support laws have changed in Texas in the last decade. In 2015, Senate Bill 550 required Texas child support payers to cover the cost of a child's dental insurance. This went into effect on September 1, 2018.

Who Pays Child Support?

Children benefit from the presence of their parents - and their financial support. If the child lives with one parent (the custodial parent), the non-custodial parent will pay support. In cases where the guardian of a child is a grandparent or other relative, both parents could be ordered to pay child support. 

The financial support of a child is meant to be shared by both parents. One parent paying child support does not exempt the other parent from providing for the basic needs of the child. 

Child Support Guidelines

minimum child support texas

If you're exploring guidelines for child support, you likely want to know how child support is calculated in Texas. According to Texas law, if you are paying child support for one child, you'll need to pay 20% of your net monthly income. If you have two children, you are paying 25% of your net monthly income, three children are 30%, four children are 35%, and so on. The amount of child support that you owe depends on how many kids you have.

Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Support

As family law attorneys, we are often asked “What is child support based on in Texas?”. Pay stubs alone do not show the whole picture! Income calculation is one area where having a good lawyer can pay leaps and bounds for the benefit of a child. For child support purposes, gross income is not just the amount an employer pays an employee — the full amount before taxes. Gross income includes ALL streams of income, including:

  • All wages and salary, including commissions and tips; 
  • Net income from rental properties; 
  • Interest and dividends from stock accounts; 
  • Self-employment income; 
  • Gig income (for example, money earned for driving for Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash).

Even parents who are not working a full-time job may have income that counts. The court will look at: 

  • Severance payments; 
  • Unemployment benefits; 
  • Early retirement benefits;
  • Veterans' benefits; 
  • Workers comp payments;
  • Disability benefits;
  • Personal injury settlement money.

A judge may attribute income to you on paper if you make attempts to avoid child support, such as structuring of business to appear to make a very low salary or no salary but receiving money through a business. 

Net Income for the Texas Child Support Guidelines

Net income is income after deductions are taken out. The court will subtract the following from the total gross income: 

  • Social security taxes; 
  • Federal income tax withholding; 
  • Union dues; 
  • If you provide medical and dental insurance for your child through your job, the court will reduce the amount deducted for that from your child's support monthly amount. 

If you pay child support to another parent for a child from a different relationship, those payments may be credited in calculating net income. For example, If you pay $600 a month in child support to another mother, your annual net income may be reduced by $7,200 ($600 x 12 months). 

Number of Children Requiring Support

child support laws in texas

In Texas, child support is based on a percentage of net income. The amount of child support percentage in Texas is based on the number of children being supported. Any Texas child support calculator will use a standard formula that determines amounts based on:

  • 1 child: 20% of net income;
  • 2 children: 25% of net income; 
  • 3 children: 30% of net income; 
  • 4 children: 35% of net income; 
  • 5+ children: 40% of net income. 

Of course, if a father has multiple children with different mothers in Texas, this can get complicated. Parents must disclose all known children under the age of 18. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.001 gives the court the discretion to depart from the guidelines and consider the “best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents”.

What Can Be Withheld from a Paycheck in Addition to Current Child Support?

Along with current monthly child support obligations, an obligor parent’s paycheck may have some funds withheld relating to child support: 

  • Cost of dental insurance and health insurance (if not provided by the obligor);
  • Past due child support; 
  • Retroactive child support (support from separation pending orders being issued). 

Loss of a job does NOT excuse a parent from paying child support. If a parent is incarcerated, child support may be modified, but a review and adjustment of the order are required - it is not automatic.

What Can Be Withheld from a Paycheck in Addition to Current Child Support?

Along with current monthly child support obligations, an obligor parent's paycheck may have some funds withheld relating to child support: 

  • Cost of dental insurance and health insurance (if not provided by the obligor);
  • Past due child support; 
  • Retroactive child support (support from separation pending orders being issued). 

Loss of a job does NOT excuse a parent from paying child support. If a parent is incarcerated, child support may be modified, but a review and adjustment of the order are required - it is not automatic.

Why Texas Child Support Payments Get Complicated?

child support percentage in texas

Although child support in Texas is designed to be simple, collecting it can be complicated in a few situations:

Employers Can Steal Child Support: The nature of the child support system in Texas requires Texas employers to withhold payments and then send them to the attorney general's office. There have been a number of instances of small business employers withholding payments and then keeping the funds. This is a crime subject to criminal action and civil penalties, but it can take time to recover funds.

Parents work as independent contractors: Independent contractor compensation is not subject to wage garnishment, and some parents specifically seek out independent contractor opportunities to avoid child support. This is due to the fact that as soon as a worker becomes an independent contractor, they aren't receiving wages which means they are no longer employees.

Collecting payments from independent contractors is difficult: If employers want to avoid payroll taxes and parents don't want to pay child support, these payments cannot be withheld as there is no withholding for independent contractors.

Parents move out of state: When a parent receiving child support moves out of state, the state they move to may have different laws regarding child support collections. As you can imagine, this can quickly make things complicated and child support payments can cease.

Systematic problems: The state might have outdated information or use an outdated computer program that can result in incorrect and inaccurate information. Updating this decades-old system is cumbersome and not a top priority for the government. Although the state has kicked off an initiative to improve child support technology, it is over budget and behind schedule.

When Child Support May Be Higher or Lower than the Guideline Amount?

The court will consider relevant background circumstances and has the discretion to look at the big picture. Background opportunities to consider regarding the obligor parent include their:

  • Age;
  • Assets;
  • Barriers to employment;
  • Criminal history;
  • Earnings history;
  • Educational attainment;
  • Employment;
  • Health;
  • Job skills;
  • Literacy;
  • Record of seeking work;
  • Residence.

Once child support orders are in place (based on the noncustodial parent's income), they must pay that amount each month. They may voluntarily pay more than the suggested amount (such as to cover sports, summer camps, tutoring, etc.), but not less. 

If the parent intentionally tries to avoid paying child support (intentional unemployment), the court may order a higher monthly amount based on the parents' abilities.

Child Support May Be Lower If Your Net Resources Are $1,000 a Month or Less

Child support is lowered if you make less than 1,000 a month.

Number of other eligible kids you have Number of kids in this case
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
0 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 35% 35%
1 13.5% 18.33% 23.13% 27.9% 32.96% 33.25% 33.47%
2 12.5% 17% 21.5% 26.5% 31.5% 31.94% 32.28%
3 11.63% 15.8% 20.63% 25.5% 30.41% 30.92% 31.33%
4 10.8% 15.33% 20% 24.75% 29.56% 30.1% 30.55%
5 10.63% 15% 19.53% 24.17% 28.88% 29.43% 29.9%
6 10.5% 14.75% 19.17% 23.7% 28.32% 28.88% 29.35%

Child Support May Be Lower If You Have Other Eligible Kids

The court uses a different formula if you make between $1,001-$9,200 a month.

Child Support May Be Higher If Your Net Resources Are $9,200 a Month or More

If your income is more than $9,200 a month, you will typically pay the same formula above, up to 100% of your child's needs. However, if your child's needs exceed the standard formula amounts, the court may order you to pay a higher amount.

What Is 50/50 Child Support? 

Custody arrangements twenty years ago often involved children living with their mother and seeing their father on weekends. This is often not in the best interests of the child, and custody can be shared. Equal shared co-parenting - called 50/50 custody - allows two parents to have equal time with their child, and this works well when parents are agreeable. However, child support can be somewhat complex in a conflict-free 50/50 custody situation. A number of outcomes may be established: 

  • A judge may not order any regular child support payments and instead order each parent to pay for standard expenses while the child is in their care. 
  • A judge may calculate what each parent would pay if either were the custodial parents, and the higher earner would pay the lower earner equalization payments. If salaries are similar, this amount can be quite small. 

In these modern times where people divorce with dignity and “consciously uncouple”, many fathers and mothers want to share parenting time. This arrangement also allows both parents to work, allowing each to financially contribute to the needs of the child. 

Parents can work out their child support arrangements, sometimes through mediation. Judges are obligated to look out for the best interests of the child and must consider this when approving any petitioned amount. 

How Do You Pay Court-Ordered Child Support?

In order for court-ordered child support to be properly accounted for, it must pass through the SDU - The Texas State Disbursement Unit. About eighty percent of all people paying child support in Texas go through wage withholding (payments deducted from paycheck) to ensure payments are made on time and without issue.

When Does Child Support End in Texas?

When discussing child support with obligors, we are often asked “how long do I have to pay child support?”. Child support typically continues until the child is 18 and graduated from high school, or unless the child marries, is legally emancipated, or passes away.

In rare cases, child support can end early. This could occur if the parents reconcile and remarry each other. If the custodial parent receives a large inheritance for the care of the child, they may wish to relieve the non-custodial parent of the financial responsibility of monthly child support and can petition to modify or terminate child support.

Can You Modify a Child Support Order?

Child Support

Child support laws in Texas pertaining to modifications of child support were adjusted in the last decade. Since 2018, the minimum child support in Texas can be modified only if the needs or circumstances of the child materially and substantially change. This can be problematic if the income of the non-custodial parent changes substantially, which can happen over the course of a few years.

Informal agreements made between co-parents do not change the court-ordered amount. The amount of standard child support in Texas can only be changed with a court order.

Can You Go to Jail for Not Paying Child Support?

What happens if you don't pay child support in Texas? Two scenarios exist where you could go to jail for failing to pay child support: 

  • A judge finds you in “contempt of court” and places you in jail for up to six months for failure to pay. 
  • You intentionally or knowingly refuse to pay child support (criminal non-support).

If you intentionally avoid child support, you may end up on the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG)'s EVADERS website.

Contact a Dallas and Fort Worth Child Support Lawyer Today

If you are looking for a fair result in a child support matter, you need a skilled and knowledgeable attorney. If you hire our attorneys, we will defend and advocate for your rights, keeping your goals in mind throughout the process. Contact our family law firm to schedule a free case evaluation. Family Law of North Texas will answer your questions related to how child support works in Texas and help you determine how much is child support in Texas based on your unique situation.

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