Child Support in Texas is based on statutory presumptions. The Texas Family Code sets out presumptive guidelines for Texas courts to use in determining child support. The Texas Family Code also sets a “cap” or maximum income that can be used to determine the amount of support owed. Every six years, the state Attorney General’s office reviews the cap on monthly child support and adjusts the amount using the consumer price index (as defined in the Texas Finance Code.) Assuming inflation has occurred, the cap will be increased, and that is just what happened in September of 2019.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Texas courts take into account monthly income to determine the amount the non-custodial parent should pay to the custodial parent to support their children. The presumptive support for one child is twenty percent of net resources (after taxes and allowable deductions from the obligor’s gross pay.) The “cap” works to limit the amount of income that is subject to the calculation: under most circumstances, the maximum amount that can be applied to calculate the monthly child support obligation is $9,200 per month. (The previous maximum amount was $8,500.) With the new cap in place, the highest monthly child support amount that can be paid out increased from $1,710 to $1,840.There are numerous online resources available to calculate child support. Here is one you can access from the Texas Attorney General’s website: https://csapps.oag.texas.gov/monthly-child-support-calculator
When Will it be Applied?
The new cap has been in effect since September 1, 2019. The new cap should have been applied to all open child support cases in Texas courts as of September 1 and all cases going forward until there is a new cap in six years. It does not apply retroactively to child support paid before this past September nor does it automatically adjust child support orders finalized before September 1.
How Does Child Support Get Modified?
The party seeking to modify a child support order files a lawsuit, petitioning the court to change the support. (There are other types of cases handled by the Texas Attorney General’s office but that’s a topic for another blog.) The basis for the modification is either a “material and substantial change” in circumstances or the existing order is three years old and support would change by either 20% or $100 from the current amount. The burden of proof is on the parent who is requesting the modification. In addition to demonstrating that there has been a significant change, the parent seeking the modification will have to show that the change is not merely temporary. Note that courts usually accept modifications agreed to by both parents so mediation or other alternative dispute resolution processes can help move modification cases through the courts.
What about Above or Below Guideline Support?
Most cases fit neatly within the parameters of the Texas Family Code presumptions. But there are certain circumstances where courts may deviate from the presumptions. Courts do not often deviate from the norm but may if there is substantial evidence proving need and ability. The threshold of proof (for support deviating from guideline amounts) is high but centers around the court determining whether the application of guideline support would be “unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances.” This is an area best handled by experts or those who are willing to put in the work of extensive legal research.
If you are currently in litigation regarding your child support responsibilities, you need to be aware of the increased cap on monthly income used to calculate monthly payments. This was a scheduled change that aims to keep up with inflation and the best interests of children in Texas. If you need legal guidance with your child support situation, reach out to us today, and let us help you arrive at the outcome that works for you.