If you are going through a divorce, your primary concern is naturally your children, and this concern likely focuses on child custody arrangements and child support. These are typically the most stressful components of any divorce involving children. While calculating Texas child support may seem daunting, understanding the process can help. If you have concerns about your divorce and child support, it’s time to retain the professional legal counsel of an experienced Houston family law attorney.
Texas Child Support’s Soft Cap
While most states take both parents’ incomes into consideration when they calculate child support obligations, Texas looks almost entirely to the income of the parent who will be paying child support. In the process, Texas implements what is known as a “soft cap.” In general terms, this means that there is a limit to the percentage of income the court will order the obligor (the parent who pays child support) to pay. It’s called a soft cap because there are exceptions, but they are rare. The State of Texas is always guided by what it determines to be in the child’s best interests, and child support is no exception.
Basic Calculations and the Soft Cap
In most cases – if the paying parent’s net income is not greater than $8,850 per month – child support in Texas is calculated at 20 percent of the paying parent’s net income for one child. Net income refers to the parent’s total earnings minus all mandatory deductions, including state and federal taxes. Every additional child – after the first – increases the court-ordered child support percentage rate by 5 percent. This is where the soft cap comes in. Once the paying parent reaches 40 percent of his or her net income in child support paid (for 5 children), the soft cap is met. As such, it’s unlikely that the paying parent will pay more than 40 percent of his or her total net income in child support.
Children in More than One Household
If the parent who will be paying child support is also paying child support for a child or children in another household, the court uses a modified calculation mechanism. Depending upon the number of children for whom the obligor owes a duty of support, the beginning percentage of 20 percent is reduced several percentage points to start. If the paying parent, for example, pays child support for one other child and has multiple children before the court (for a child support calculation), the experiential percentage rate will go up from the decreased beginning percentage by 5 percentage points per child (up to a maximum of 5 children). If, on the other hand, the paying parent has multiple children for whom he or she already pays child support and has multiple children before the court, the starting percentage rate will be lower still and the percentage point increase per additional child will be less than 5 percent.
Exceptions to the Rule
Texas courts are allowed discretion when it comes to calculating child support, and there are some exceptions that apply to the standard calculation. The court takes the “proven needs” of the children before it into consideration when making child support calculations. There are a variety of examples that can help illustrate this point:
- While child support is intended to cover the basics, including clothing, food, and shelter, if the divorcing parents had the money to live a lifestyle that allowed the children many educational and extracurricular enhancements, a judge may well allow a level of child support that exceeds the guidelines.
- If a child before the court has special needs that necessitate additional expenses such as medical care, enhanced daycare expenses, and more, the judge will factor this into the child support calculations and will likely approve a level of support that is higher than guidelines based on need. Additionally, if the child has such severe special needs that he or she won’t ever be able to live an independent life, the judge may extend child support indefinitely – rather than having it end at the age of majority.
If you are going through a divorce, you have a lot on your mind – not the least of which is your children’s continued financial wellbeing. The fact is that divorce leaves nearly everyone less financially stable than they were while married. This is where child support enters in. The court puts the best interests of your children first, and as such will calculate child support in a manner that helps ensure your children will continue to live comfortable lives post-divorce. Whether you are the parent who will receive child support or the parent who will pay child support, it helps to know that the court makes the child support calculation in an effort to help your children, which is naturally also your primary concern.
Nevertheless, worrying about not having enough money to provide for your children or worrying about not being able to continue to support yourself (and your children during visitation) because of exorbitant child support payments is exceedingly stressful. Consulting with an experienced Houston family law attorney can help.
If You Have Child Support Concerns, Consult with an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Today
Everything about divorce is difficult. One of the most frightening components, however, is contemplating the prospect of how you will be able to afford to continue to support your children in the same lifestyle that you shared with them while you were married. Child support is intended to help bridge the financial gap and to help you provide your children with the essentials. While you are naturally worried about your children and your finances going forward, an experienced Houston family law attorney can help. The dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston is committed to helping parents like you move forward with dignity and confidence. Our skilled family law attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 713-781-7775 for more information today.