Family Law 101: How is Child Support Calculated in Texas?

Child support is one of the issues our clients are often concerned with the most when weighing a decision to divorce or are currently going through one. And there is little wonder why – a child’s well-being will always be of utmost importance to their parents. So when a divorce is on the horizon, it is only natural and simply advisable for a parent to consider its impact on the child’s future security and stability – both emotionally and financially.

Different states have adopted different criteria for calculating the amount of money to require one parent to pay to the other parent. The Texas Family Code contains a specific formula used by the court as guidelines in this regard. In this blog, we will analyze the details of this formula so that our clients can use it to estimate the amount of child support they may be awarded by the court – or ordered to pay.

First Step – Calculating Gross and Net Income

The first thing that a court will do in order to determine the amount of child support a parent will owe is to calculate the parent’s gross income. This includes income from all the potential money sources – cash, wages, bonuses, dividends, rents, pensions, and others. Once the information about these is gathered and the gross income is calculated, the next step is to calculate the parent’s net income. This is done by subtracting certain expenses – the required federal taxes (using a chart set forth by the Texas Attorney General), social security or non discretionary retirement plan contributions, union fees, and health insurance premiums for the child – from the gross income. This establishes the net income.

Second Step – Multiplying by a Stipulated Percentage

Once the net income is established, the court will use the guidelines found in the Texas Family Code and multiply the income by a percentage depending on the number of children the parent will be supporting. Here are the stipulated rates in their most basic form:

  • 20% of net income if supporting one child
  • 25% of net income if supporting two children
  • 30% of net income if supporting three children
  • 35% of net income if supporting four children
  • 40% of net income if supporting five or more children

According to these guidelines, if no other factors come into play, a parent whose net income is $2,500 will pay $500 in child support for one child.

The Texas Attorney General online child support calculator will also help you determine the amount of child support you’ll need to pay or receive:

Third Step – Considering Other Factors

It is important to note that the final decision with regards to child support lies with the court who may consider other factors as well. For example, the percentages mentioned above are reduced if the parent required to pay child support has a duty to support children from other relationships too. In addition, the amount of child support will be calculated differently if said parent is self-employed, disabled, or on active military duty. And finally, in Texas, the upper limit of net income that can be used to calculate child support is capped each year (in 2018, the cap is $8,550). Other factors for the Court to consider include whether the parents actually have an equal time of possession, the travel expenses incurred by the paying parent to visit the child, and extraordinary health care expenses of the child, among other considerations.

For a parent who has the primary custody of the children, it may be difficult to make an estimate of the child support amount even knowing the guidelines above. That’s why Fraser, Wilson & Bryan, P.C. encourage those facing issues related to divorce, child support, and similar ones to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced and understanding attorneys.