Under Texas law a non-custodial parent—that is, the parent who does not have physical custody of a child—may be ordered to make regular child support payments. Unlike many other states that employ fairly vague methodologies for determining how much support is in a child’s “best interests,” Texas employs a fairly straightforward set of guidelines for calculating a non-custodial parent’s minimum child support payments.
A Percentage Based on the Number of Children
The basic rule in Texas is that child support should equal at least a certain percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income. The exact percentage is based on the number of children who require support. For one child, the non-custodial parent is expected to pay at least 20 percent of net income. An addition 5 percent is added for each additional child: 25 percent for 2 children, 30 percent for 3 children, et cetera. For six or more children, the minimum percentage cannot fall below 40 percent.
How Is Net Income Determined?
The Texas Family Code actually refers to “net resources,” which includes the non-custodial parent’s wages and salary, interest and investment income, self-employment income, net rental income, and retirement and pension benefits. Net resources excludes some forms of income, including principal or capital used to start a business, certain public assistance benefits, and payments received in connection with the foster care of a child.
To calculate net resources, a judge will deduct certain items from all of the income described above. This includes normal payroll deductions such as income taxes and union dues. It also includes any court-ordered payments made for the benefit of a dependent child’s health care, such as insurance premiums.
Net resources are usually calculated as an annual figure and then divided by 12 to determine the non-custodial parent’s monthly net resources. The percentages noted above are then applied to calculate the minimum child support obligation. Please note the percentages only apply to the first $7,500 of monthly net income.
What If a Parent Isn’t Currently Working?
Texas law does not absolve an unemployed parent of his or her duty to pay child support. To that end, a judge may “impute” a certain amount of income to a non-working parent based on an estimate of his or her earning potential. Imputed income is based on a number of factors, including the parent’s education and work history, but generally cannot fall below the minimum wage, which is currently $290 per week (40 hours per week at $7.25 per hour).
These Are Only Guidelines – Contact a Divorce Lawyer for Help in Preparation for Divorce
While Texas judges will follow the child support guidelines above in most cases involving separation, they are not fixed in stone. A court may deviate from the guidelines—ordering the non-custodial parent to pay higher or lower levels of support—depending on the facts of an individual case. An experienced Galveston family law attorney can assist you in these matters. Contact a Galveston divorce attorney at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you need help challenging or modifying a child support order today.