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In Texas, the parent who is the non-primary conservator will almost always be ordered to pay child support. The parent who does not have primary managing conservatorship will be ordered to pay a monthly child support amount to the parent who has primary managing conservatorship. The person who pays support is called the “Obligor.” The person who receives child support is called the "Obligee."
Most parents mistakenly believe that they can agree that no child support will be paid in your case. The court must look at what is in the best interest of the child when making all orders, including child support. This means that even if the parents agree that there will be no child support paid, the court usually will reject that agreement. There are rare circumstances in which a court will not order child support. If a parent is legally disabled and legally unable to earn an income, the court may not order support. Another example of a situation where a court may not order support is if the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent, and the parents each earn the same amount of money. Even in circumstances where the child spends the same amount of time with each parent, the court will often order the parent who earns more to pay support to the parent who does not earn as much.
The court will typically order a monthly child support amount that is in accordance with the statutory guidelines listed in the Texas Family Code. This is essentially 20% of the net income of the non-primary parent if there is one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three children, and so on and so forth. If the parent has another child or children that he/she is supporting outside of the marriage, then the percentages will decrease a bit. The child support ordered to be paid cannot be over 50% of the net earnings of that parent, and child support is only calculated on the first $8550 of the parent’s monthly net income.
In addition to the monthly child support amount, the non-primary parent will usually be ordered to pay for the health insurance for the child, and will also be ordered to pay half of the medical expenses not covered by insurance.
A court must find the child support amount ordered to be in the best interest of the child. If the child support amount is not in accordance with the guideline percentages listed above, then there must be a specific reasons listed in the divorce decree as to why the standard guideline child support is not ordered and why the amount ordered instead is in the best interest of the child. If parents reach an agreement for child support that is lower than the statutory guideline amount, then the court is likely to reject that agreement unless it finds compelling reasons to warrant the parent to pay a different amount.
When calculating the monthly amount of child support to be paid, the court will take the percentage of the net monthly income of the parent. The net income is the bring home pay of the parent after taxes and cost for the child’s insurance are taken out.
Most Texas courts require that a Wage Withholding Order be signed by the judge in a divorce where child support is ordered. This is an order by the court that the employer of the parent who is ordered to pay support must take the child support out of the employee’s pay check and mail it in to the state for payment of support.
All payments for child support will generally be paid through the “Texas Child Disbursement Unit” in San Antonio, so the parent will typically not pay child support directly to the other parent.
Texas courts do not look kindly at those parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support. If a parent fails to pay child support, that parent could be held in contempt of court, have their driver’s license suspended, have their IRS refunds seized, and/or can go to jail.