Child Support Guidelines
Generally, child support is owed by the parent who does not have primary custody, the non-possessory parent (who is also called the obligor), to the possessory parent who does have primary custody (also called the the obligee). The amount of child support owed is determined by guidelines that apply a statutory percentage to the obligor’s net resources (gross income, less social security taxes and the federal income tax withholding for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction). Tex. Fam. Code § 154.061
The easiest way to estimate an obligor’s net resources is to review the tax charts published by the Office of the Attorney General of Texas.
Child support guidelines are designed to apply to situations in which the obligor’s monthly net resources are not greater than $7,500 or the amount determined under Tex. Fam. Code § 154.125(a-1) (which adjusts the $7,500 figure every six years for inflation), whichever is greater. The next adjustment under this section will take effect September 1, 2013 under Tex. Fam. Code § 154.125(a-2).
For children living in one household, child support starts at 20 percent of the obligor’s net resources for one child and increases five percent for each additional child until there are five children living in one household, with the guidelines showing child support of 40 percent of net resources being owed. Once there are six or more children before the court, the amount under guidelines that would be owed is “not less than the amount for five children,” or 40 percent of the obligor’s net resources.
The guidelines for amounts owed for child support for children living in multiple households address two situations. In the first situation the obligor has one or more children living with him or her for whom he /she owes a duty of support and is paying support on another child or children not residing with him/her. In the second situation the obligor has multiple children with multiple persons, none of whom he/she lives with, to whom he/she is paying support. The adjusted guideline amounts for the children before the court (children who are the subject of the present lawsuit) when there are other children for whom the obligor has a duty of support that are not before the court (children not a part of the present lawsuit) can be easily determined by reviewing the chart provided in Tex. Fam. Code § 154.129. If you wish to do the calculations rather than use the chart, that calculation is set out in Tex. Fam. Code § 154.128.
Going Above and Beyond Child Support Guidelines
According to a report by CNN, “Raising a child just got $8,000 more expensive,” it is currently estimated that the cost of raising a child born in 2011 over 17 years is $235,000, which is $1,151 per month. This amount varies by geographic region and socioeconomic status, but gives one pause for thought. What if your child’s proven needs are greater than the amount the obligor owes under guidelines, or your child’s needs are greater than the guideline ceiling on support?
While courts are often resistant to deviating from child support guidelines, it can be done if the proven needs of the child necessitate additional support.
An adjustment is allowed from the presumptive guideline amount “as appropriate, depending on the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.” The difference between the proven needs of the child and the amount that would be awarded under guidelines is allocated between the parties according to the circumstances of the parties, particularly their ability to pay additional amounts. However, the court cannot order the obligor to pay more than either the presumptive amount or an amount equal to 100% of the proven needs of the child.
Additional Child Support Based on the Proven Needs of the Child
What factors can be considered by the court for deciding whether to order support above and beyond the guideline amounts? Tex. Fam. Code § 154.123(b) provides the following non-exhaustive list of factors:
- the age and needs of the child;
- the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;
- any financial resources available for the support of the child;
- the amount of time of possession of and access to a child;
- the amount of the obligee’s net resources, including the earning potential of the obligee if the actual income of the obligee is significantly less than what the obligee could earn because the obligee is intentionally unemployed or underemployed and including an increase or decrease in the income of the obligee or income that may be attributed to the property and assets of the obligee;
- child care expenses incurred by either party in order to maintain gainful employment;
- whether either party has the managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of another child;
- the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or received by a party;
- the expenses for a son or daughter for education beyond secondary school;
- whether the obligor or obligee has an automobile, housing, or other benefits furnished by his or her employer, another person, or a business entity;
- the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal services of the parties;
- provision for health care insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
- special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or of the child;
- the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to a child;
- positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a business and investments;
- debts or debt service assumed by either party; and
- any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.
As one can see, there are numerous factors that can be brought before the court if a variance from child support guidelines is needed. If any of these factors apply in your situation, or if there are other considerations that you believe entitle you to additional child support above and beyond guidelines, please contact the Law Office of Chris A. Spofford to arrange a consultation to have an attorney meet with you to discuss your situation. It is important to understand that an opposing party can use these and other factors to argue for child support less than the presumptive amount provided by the guidelines (provided they can demonstrate that such a variance is justified and in the child’s best interest).
Agreed Child Support Above and Beyond The Guidelines
Finally, it is important to remember that the parties can informally agree to an amount in excess of or less than the presumptive amount reached by applying child support guidelines. It may be the case that you may be able to settle for more support than the court could award. If you need assistance in determining whether settlement is in your best interests, or what would be a fair settlement, please contact the Law Office of Chris A. Spofford to arrange a consultation to have an attorney meet with you to evaluate your situation.