Texas law presumes that it is in the best interest of a child to be supported by both parents. If the parents live in separate households, the law presumes that the custodial parent will provide support by providing a place to live, paying the utilities, and providing food for the child. The non-custodial parent, it is then presumed, should help support the child by providing a percentage of his or her net income to the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent who pays child support is called the obligor. The custodial parent who receives child support is called the obligee.
Child support is calculated using net income. Net income is not necessarily the same as it is on your pay stub. Net income is calculated by taking 1/12th of the total income received from all resources for the last 12 months and then allowing the standard deduction and one exemption per Federal IRS tax codes. These are calculated annually and published by the Office of the Attorney General here. If you are self-employed, self-employment tax rates are also deducted.
Presumption of Wages
Texas Family Code 154.068 presumes that even if a parent is presently unemployed, they have the ability to work and have the ability to earn a minimum wage at full-time. This is called the minimum-wage presumption. Presumptive minimum-wage net resources are calculated as $1,172.22 per month. Be aware that this is a rebuttable presumption. There are some exceptions to this presumption, including disabilties, etc. Evidence must be very good and only a Judge can determine whether your reasons to show net resources less than the presumption are valid.
Calculating support when you have children only in one case is straight forward enough. For one child you multiply the net income by 20%. For each additional child add 5% for each additional child. For example, if you have 3 children and your net income is $2,400 each month, your child support obligation each month will be $800.00.
In the event you have children with more than one partner, the percentages get a bit more complicated. You can find the appropriate percentage by looking at the chart below.
An example involving an obligor with one child in a case and three children at home, one of whom is a step-child: Looking at the chart we can see that the correct percentage will be found in column 1. In this particular case the correct percentage is 16.00% because the step-child does not count as a child the obligor has a duty to support and therefore the correct row is 2.
More likely than not your support obligation will track the guidelines of the Texas Family Code. In rare cases, however, it may be possible that your child support obligation will deviate from the guidelines. There are few reasons to deviate from the guideline resources and percentages, most commonly travel expenses for the non-custodial parent to exercise possession and access.
Deviations can also increase an obligor's obligation above the guidelines as well. This can sometimes happen if a child requires more medical resources than normal, or if there are large child care expenses.
Length of Support Order
Child support in Texas typically ends when a child graduates high school and reaches the age of 18 (Texas Family Code Sec. 154.001). If the child turns 18 but is still enrolled in high school, support ends the month the child graduates. If the child graduates from high school before he or she is 18, the support ends the month the child turns 18. An order for support of a child also ends when the child emancipates.
Child Support of a Disabled Child
There are times when a child requires support beyond the age of 18 and high school graduation. When a child has a disability that impacts that child's ability to take care of him or herself, a court has the ability to order child support indefinitely. In order for a court to order support for a child indefinitely, the Court must find:
1. the child, whether institutionalized or not, requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support; and
2. that the child's disability existed, or the cause of the disability was known to exist, prior to the child's 18th birthday.
Texas Family Code 154.302(a).