There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding how child support works in Texas. We often have clients walk into our office, and they believe since they have joint custody or a 50/50 custody schedule that child support is not necessary.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. To fully understand how child support in Texas works, we must first take a small look at how custody is designated in Texas.
How Child Custody Affects Texas Child Support
If you are searching for information about Texas child support and custody you'll first need to understand Texas’ terminology regarding child custody. Like various other states, Texas has terms they prefer to use in place of child custody and other legal terms. The State of Texas often refers to custody as the term conservatorship. Each parent's rights and duties are determined in the conservatorship, whether sole conservatorship, joint conservatorship, or possessory conservatorship. It’s important to know this so that when you’re looking toward opening a Texas child support matter or a child custody matter, the terms you read in petitions, motions, responses, or other legal documents don’t come as a surprise to you. You can also talk with an experienced Texas child support and child custody attorney to ensure that you understand how these laws and concepts work as well as the terminology used. Ball Morse Lowe provides free initial consultations.
The State of Texas prefers that both parents maintain equal parental rights so long as there is no evidence of abuse. Therefore, it is common for both parents to be named “joint managing conservators,” which gives each parent generally the same rights and duties to the child, with one parent deciding where the child lives and what school the child will attend. Joint conservatorship is essentially the same concept as 50/50 custody, which, while parenting rights are considered equal, doesn’t always mean parenting time (referred to as “Possession” in Texas law) is equal.
A visitation schedule is still implemented with a joint conservatorship. How visitation will be determined may be based on several factors. The visitation schedule can be determined by agreement between the parents, it can be decided based on statutory guidelines (such as the standard visitation schedule), or if the non-residential parent lives a considerable distance away, a special visitation schedule may be determined. Those are a few examples of how visitation may be determined, but it is not an all-inclusive list.
The real question is how do child custody and visitation relate to child support in Texas?
So, How Does Child Support Work In Texas? Is It Related to Visitation?
Each of the three conservatorships mentioned above and the various visitation schedules mentioned play a factor in how child support in Texas is determined. Again, the State of Texas has their own term when it comes to visitation. Visitation is often referred to as possession. So what do conservatorships and possession have to do with child support?
Just as a common rule of thumb in most custodial (or sole conservator) and non-custodial arrangements, the non-custodial parent is typically the obligor when it comes to who pays child support. Non-custodial parents in Texas are referred to as possessory conservators. Possessory conservators still have the same rights as the sole conservator, but may not have the same decision-making abilities for the child.
In most cases, this common rule of thumb for child support is well-known, but what about 50/50 custody agreements? How does Texas child support handle joint conservatorships?
The Texas Family Code, section 153.138 states that,
“the appointment of joint managing conservators does not impair or limit the authority of the Court to order a joint managing conservator to pay child support to another joint managing conservator.”
This means the law in Texas can make decisions about conservatorship and its visitation schedule separately from decisions about child support. In this scenario, the joint conservator who makes less monthly income may be awarded child support.
As mentioned above, in a situation with a standard possession order or an expanded standard possession order, the non-custodial parent or possessory conservator has the responsibility to pay child support. Texas child support is determined by finding the possessory conservator’s net income and comparing it to the conservator’s net income to determine what is in the best interest of the child. This income will have a few factors deducted including if this obligor has other children they are responsible for. The Texas Family Code Title 5, Chapter 154 provides a more detailed equation the State of Texas follows to determine the amount of child support. Further in that link, The Texas Family Code section 154.125 provides the guidelines for determining child support and is based on a percentage of the net income depending on how many children are to be supported:
Texas Child Support: More information on Joint Conservatorship
As mentioned above, in a joint conservatorship, the parent who is the higher earner can be ordered to pay child support. The court would do this to help equate the children’s living environment and experience with both parents. However, if the parents earn similar incomes, they can agree that no child support is necessary since the child is dividing his or her time equally between the parents and both parents are able to provide similar environments and experiences.
Where You Pay Your Child Support in Texas
Child support in Texas is paid to the Office of the Attorney General, which also keeps track of all payments and arrears if payments are missed. Around 80% of all child support payments in Texas are made through wage garnishment, which means the money is taken out of your paycheck. This means no one needs to remember to pay this bill monthly and allows parents to focus their conversations on parenting matters and they can avoid discussing child support regularly. If you would like to better determine what a possible child support amount may be, you can use this calculator to get an idea based on your personal situation.
More Questions About Texas Child Support and Conservatorships?
If you have questions about conservatorship, a visitation schedule, or child support in Texas, Ball Morse Lowe is here to discuss your case and work for you. While this might be your first time going to court to discuss these difficult matters, we have years of experience and expertise that will help you confront these challenges. Whether you have unexpectedly been served papers or are looking to revisit and modify an existing order, we can help. We are available at 214.272.0964, where you can set up a time to have a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.