It is important to be aware of Texas’ maximum child support limits. Guidelines for calculating child support in Texas changed after September 1, 2013. Under the law prior to September 1, 2013, a payer’s child support obligation was based on income up to the first $7,500 per month in net monthly resources. After September 1, 2013, child support is calculated using the first $8,550 in net monthly resources.
The 2013 cap increase only applies to obligors whose gross monthly resources are between $11,822 and $12,599, depending on whether the person is self-employed. The $1,050 increase from $7,500 to $8,550 is to for the rising cost of living. The $8,550 cap is to remain in effect for six years (until 2019).
Calculating Child Support in Texas
Texas calculates child support based solely on the payer’s or obligor’s income. There are some unique circumstances where the court can deviate from the guidelines, but those are rare. The formula for calculating child support under Texas law is relatively straightforward:
- Divide the payer’s annual income from all sources by 12.
- Subtract the required withholding and social security taxes for one person claiming one dependent, the cost of children’s health insurance (not the parent’s), and any union dues owed by the payer. The Attorney General Of Texas provides charts showing the amount of tax to deduct.
- After the deductions are subtracted, apply to the net monthly resources the following percentages based on the number of children for whom support is being paid:
- 1 child (20%)
- 2 children (25%)
- 3 children (30%)
- 4 children (35%)
- 5 children (40%)
These percentages change if the obligor/payer is paying child support to another parent for other children.
Texas Family Code section 154.125 requires the Office of the Attorney General to review and adjust the amount of monthly net resources used to calculate child support every six years. This is done based on inflation and using the consumer price index. Before September 1, 2013, the maximum guideline child support for 2 children in Texas was $1,875 ($7,500 x 25%). After September 1st, it was changed to $2,137.50 ($8,550 x 25%). If the payer’s income is less than the presumptive maximum, then the guideline percentages apply to the actual monthly net resources.
Determining the Payer’s Income
Arguments about the amount of child support are usually about calculating the payer’s income. Occasionally, a person will try to argue about the children’s needs or the other parent’s financial irresponsibility but those arguments are rarely entertained by a judge. The big issue is trying to determine the payer’s future income based on prior earning history. Inevitably, the person who will be paying support will claim that he or she is just about to lose their biggest customer, overtime is no longer available, or bonuses are about to be cut. Generally, earning history will be the biggest determining factor. If the payer, or obligor, has had the same employment position for a few years and has always earned a bonus, overtime, or commission, without some powerfully clear evidence, a judge is likely to assume that the income will continue.
Essentially, past income is used to try to predict the payer’s future income.
Deviating From Child Support Guidelines
There are circumstances in which a judge may deviate from the child support guidelines. The most common are where the payer’s income substantially exceeds the guideline cap and the proven needs of the children justify more than the guideline amount. Texas courts rarely order less than the guideline amount. One instance that comes to mind is where the primary custodial parent wants to move the children away from the immediate area and a judge grants permission but reduces the payer’s child support obligation to account for transportation costs.
If the payer is intentionally unemployed or under-employed, a judge can base child support on what the payer is capable of earning.
Deviating from the guidelines is case-specific and must be discussed in detail with a lawyer who knows and understands Texas child support law and has experience arguing the issues in court.
The Texas Child Support Charts And Calculating Maximum Child Support
Be careful when using the Texas tax charts to calculate the maximum child support. First, note that there are two charts, one for employed persons and one for the self-employed. Although an experienced attorney can do the calculation quickly and almost by rote, an error of $50 per month will equal $600 per year. Depending on the number of years that support must be paid that can equal a nice little sum.
Be very careful about calculating the amount of child support to be paid. A high earner unaware of the guideline cap can pay several thousand dollars more per month than required by law. If the parents can agree on the amount of income to use, an experienced attorney can do the calculation quickly.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein in intended for informational purposes only and should not be as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
© Copyright Brian McNamara, 2016. May be reproduced with credit to the author.