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How does child support work?

Texas law requires all parents to support their children with the necessities of life such as food, clothing, education, medical expenses and a place to live. After the parents' relationship ends, a court orders the noncustodial parent to regularly pay child support to the primary support parent. Normally, this support is deducted from the obligor's paycheck.

Support is limited to maintaining the child's household and best interest. Noncustodial parents must also help assure that the child has healthcare coverage through private insurance, CHiPS or Medicaid. When a custodial parent has health insurance, the noncustodial parent has to provide reimbursement for that expense.

Guidelines dictate the parent's support payments. Factors include the noncustodial parent's income and the number of children from the recently-dissolved relationship and other relationships.

The noncustodial parent may deduct federal taxes, social security, union dues and the cost of the child's health insurance from the parent's gross pay. After these deductions, the court uses a child support formula calculated on a percentage of that parent's net income. If net resources do not exceed $8,500 per month, the support ranges from 20 for one child to 40 percent for five children. The percentage increases by five percent for each additional child.

A parent is not required to pay more than 50 percent of their net earnings. Courts will consider children from other relationships and the parent's employment status. Courts presume that the noncustodial parent can earn at least minimum wage.

Where a parent has a monthly net income over $8,500, the court will use the percentage guidelines to the first $8,500 of that parent's net resources for the month. Additional support may be ordered based upon the parents' income and the child's needs.

A parent may seek a court enforcement order if the noncustodial parent has delinquent payments. Parents can file this action through the Attorney General's child support office or hire a private attorney and file a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. A parent who does not obey a support order may be fined or imprisoned.

Child support obligations are a consequential part of the dissolution of the relationship and afterwards. Prompt legal representation can help assure that support orders meet the child's needs.

Source: Texas Young Lawyers' Association, "What to Expect in Texas Family Law Court," Accesssed June 20, 2016

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