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Child Support in a Texas Divorce: What Will it Cost?

Depending on what side of your divorce case you are on, you may be wondering: “How much will I pay in child support?” or “How much will I get in child support?”

These are key questions if you are trying to figure out post-divorce finances, and this is one of the few divorce questions we can answer with some measure of confidence.

Child support in Texas is determined using a formula with minimums and maximums in place.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the formula and link out to a handy calculator tool available on the Texas Attorney General’s website that you can use to make estimates for your own case.

Considerations

Policymakers in Texas have determined it is in the public interest that non-custodial parents meet their obligation of supporting each of their children.

To that end, the state has established guidelines that determine the amount a given parent will be obligated to pay in child support each month.


In making this determination, the law considers whether a parent:

  • Is self-employed or an employee
  • Provides health insurance and/or dental insurance for the child
  • Pays union dues and/or state income taxes
  • Supports multiple children via child support payments

Section 154.123 of the Texas Family Law Code lists 17 additional factors that the court may consider when determining if the guidelines are appropriate.

“It is vital that you consult with your attorney about how these factors could apply to your case.”

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The Formula

The basic formula starts with the payor’s Monthly Gross Income.[1] From that, OASDI,[2] Medicare,[3] and estimated Federal Income Tax withholding are deducted.

This generates the payor’s estimated Monthly Income.

I will pause here to point out what isn’t included: The formula does not consider the payor’s 401(k) or other retirement plan contributions, cost for employer-provided health insurance, or any other deductions from wages for employer-sponsored benefits.

From the payor’s Monthly Income, the formula then deducts any amounts they are paying for Medical Support, Dental Support, Union Dues, and State Income Tax.[4] This generates the payor’s Net Resources.

The Texas Family Code Guidelines put a floor and a ceiling on the percentage of a non-custodial parent’s Net Resources that may be ordered in child support.

The minimum is 20% (for one child), and the maximum is 40% for five children or more.[5]

There are some important caveats here. First, child support guidelines are specifically designed to apply to no more than $9,200 of Monthly Net Resources. Put another way, a non-custodial parent is generally only expected to use the first $9,200 of their Monthly Net Resources for all child support payments.

Also, a non-custodial parent is not expected to pay more than 40% of their Monthly Net Resources in child support, regardless of the number of children he or she may be obligated to support.

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Estimating Child Support

The Texas Attorney General’s office has a Monthly Child Support Calculator that you can use to estimate how much you may need to pay or how much you may receive in child support. The information you’ll need is:

  1. Employment status of the non-custodial parent (employed or self-employed)
  2. Income frequency (hourly, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, or annually)
  3. Gross income for each period (hourly, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, or annually)
  4. The monthly amount the non-custodial parent will pay in Medical Support, Dental Support, Union Dues, and/or State Income Tax
  5. The number of children for the case in question
  6. The number of children total that the non-custodial parent supports. 

Keep in mind as you make your post-divorce budget that any amount you calculate using the State Attorney General’s website is only an estimate. 

The amount actually ordered may vary based on the 17 factors outlined in the previously mentioned section of the Texas Family Code.

In addition, child support payments may end in the event of the payor quitting their job, being fired, or dying. Child support also generally ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later.

Lastly, if you intend to pursue joint custody with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, there will be no child support ordered.

Child support is only ordered where one parent has primary custody and the other parent visits less than 50% of the time.

Navigating your post-divorce life comes with a host of unknowns. But the amount of child support you may receive (or pay) doesn’t have to be one of them.

 

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Fact-checking for this article kindly provided by Candace Demary of The Law Office of Candace B. Demary, PLLC.

Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc is not affiliated with Candace Demary or The Law Office of Candace B. Demary, PLLC.

[1] This is the amount of wages before taxes or other pre-tax expenses.

[2] OASDI stands for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance. This is more commonly known as Social Security, and is a tax of 6.2% applied to the first $137,700 of income a taxpayer earns.

[3] 1.4% tax applied to all wages.

[4] If the payor lives in a state with a state income tax.

[5] One child, no less than 20%; two children, no less than 25%; three children, no less than 30%; four children, no less than 35%; five children, no less than 40%; more than five children, no more than 40%.