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Every parent in Texas has a duty to provide financial support for their minor children. Child support disputes are common in divorce cases. Even parents who were never married may need to establish the non-custodial parent’s obligations under the law.

Whatever your situation, an experienced San Antonio child support attorney can guide you through the legal process of establishing, contesting, modifying, or enforcing an obligation. Attorney David J. Rodriguez has 30 years of experience in Texas family law. He has assisted many San Antonio parents resolve child support disputes through mediation. He has represented parents in court. Ultimately, his goal is to obtain the best outcome for the child.

The Basics of Child Support in Texas

In general, the Texas Family Code states that a court may order either or both of a child’s parents to provide financial support until any of the following events occur:

  • The child reaches 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last;
  • The child is emancipated through marriage or court order;
  • The child dies;
  • The child is adopted, and the parent’s parental rights are terminated;
  • In the case of a disabled child, for an indefinite period after the child turns 18.

A court order for child support can take several forms. In most cases, the noncustodial parent will make monthly payments to the custodial parent. But depending on the specific facts of the case, child support may also be rendered as a lump-sum payment, an annuity purchase, setting aside property to be administered for the child’s benefit, or any combination of these methods.

Child support is meant to meet all of a child’s basic needs. A custodial parent is already presumed to be contributing financially towards such needs. But the non-custodial parent is also required to pay their share of such expenses, which include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • The child’s basic food, housing, and clothing needs;
  • The child’s medical care, including uninsured medical expenses;
  • The child’s educational payments, including the costs of attending college;
  • The prices of providing after-school child care;
  • The prices of the child’s extra-curricular activities, such as attending summer camps or participating in sports;
  • The child’s transportation, travel, and entertainment expenses.

How the Texas Child Support Guidelines Work

Child support is not simply what the non-custodial parent unilaterally decides is fair and reasonable. When the parents cannot agree on child support, it is left to a judge to determine how much the non-custodial parent must pay. And in Texas, judges follow a series of child support guidelines in the Family Code.

The two key considerations in the child support guidelines are the number of children requiring support and the non-custodial parent’s “monthly net resources.” Any or all of the following can be included in net resources:

  • All of the parent’s wages and salary income;
  • Any other income for services rendered, such as tips, sales commissions, and bonuses;
  • Any income the parent earned through self-employment;
  • The income from any rental properties owned by the parent, less any necessary operating expenses;
  • Any income the parent receives from pensions, trusts, annuities, or Social Security retirement benefits.

The final calculation of net resources does allow for certain deductions from gross income, such as mandatory deductions for Social Security and income taxes, union dues, and any insurance obligations the parent is already required to pay on behalf of the child.

If a parent fails to provide the court with sufficient evidence of their actual net resources–or the parent is voluntarily unemployed and earning less than their potential–the court can assume or “impute” income to determine child support obligations. When imputing income, the judge will consider various factors, such as the parent’s employment and earnings history, education, age, health, job opportunities within their community, and the prevailing wage for their occupation or trade.

Once the court determines the non-custodial parent’s net income, the guidelines establish the baseline support obligation as a percentage, considering the number of children requiring support. For example, in most cases, a parent with a regular income and one child is expected to pay 25 percent of their net resources in support. This percentage increases for each additional child–i.e., 25 percent for two children, 30 percent for three children, et cetera.

There are separate guidelines applicable to higher- and lower-income parents. For low-income parents, defined as less than $1,000 per month in net resources, the percentages described above are reduced by 5 percent. For higher-income parents, defined as net resources of more than $9,200 per month as of 2019, a judge may order support that exceeds the recommended percentage in the guidelines.

Indeed, a judge can deviate upward or downward from the guidelines in any case where it is determined to be in the child’s best interests. The court can consider the child’s age and needs, how much time each parent spends with the child, whether a parent is paying or receiving alimony, and a number of other factors when setting a final support amount. But if a judge does decide to deviate from the guidelines, they are required to offer written reasons for doing so, and either parent may appeal that decision to a higher court.

Can Parents Agree on Child Support?

Ideally, parents can resolve any outstanding custody and child support issues. And if one parent agrees to pay child support in an amount that exceeds what would be required by the Texas guidelines, that is permitted. But if the parents decide to pay an amount below the guidelines, they will need to justify the court. Once again, the judge’s role is to determine what is in the child’s best interest and not the parents.

Enforcing Child Support Orders in Texas

When a judge issues a final child support order, it’s legally binding. The parent cannot refuse or skirt their obligations. It is possible to modify an existing child support order. It requires proof that the proposed change would be in the child’s best interests.

If a parent refuses or stops paying child support, several legal tools may be employed to enforce compliance, including but not limited to:

  • Withholding a portion of the parent’s income from their paycheck;
  • Intercepting federal or state income tax returns owed to the parent;
  • Filing liens against the parent’s real estate or other assets;
  • Suspending the parent’s driver’s, professional, hunting, or fishing licenses; or
  • Holding the parent in contempt of court, which can mean jail time.

In short, child support is never optional. Suppose a parent is having difficulty meeting their current or past-due obligations. In that case, their best option is to speak with a qualified San Antonio child support attorney who can offer advice on dealing with the situation without running afoul of the law.

Speak with a San Antonio Child Support Lawyer Today

Child support is often a difficult subject for many parents to deal with, particularly in the context of a larger divorce proceeding. That is why it is in the best interests of you and your family to work with an experienced San Antonio child support attorney. Contact the Law Office of David J. Rodriguez, PLLC, today at (210) 716-0726 to schedule an initial consultation.

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David took care of will for husband and I. Great experience. He is knowledgeable and efficient. We needed that after perusing forms online. Although reasonably intelligent we decided we definitely needed professional help. So glad we used David.
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