A reasonable question to ask at the beginning of a child custody or divorce case would be what your future responsibility regarding child support looks like given your circumstances. To be sure, although we are about to discover that child support can be a rather straightforward and mathematical issue regarding a family law case it can certainly become a contentious issue depending upon the circumstances of your case. There is also a fair bit of information circulating in our world about child support there is more myth than reality. 

For that reason, I would like to take some time and discuss with you the most essential pieces of information that I can think of based on my experience representing people just like you in child support, child custody, and divorce cases. Whether you are a mother or a father, married or single, the primary caretaker of your child, or something different I think today’s blog post contains information that will be helpful No matter what your circumstance or your role as mother or father of a child. 

What is child support? 

I’m willing to bet that you have a really good idea about what child support is but for those of you who do not I would like to discuss the topic in greater detail. Child support is financial contributions made from one parent to the other during and after a child custody or divorce case. These payments are intended to assist the parent with whom the child spends more time and resides with primarily when it comes to paying for the essentials in the life of that child. 

Typically, child support is paid by a possessory conservator to the primary conservator. For example, if in your divorce case you were named as the parent who has visitation rights to your child that means that your ex-spouse has the right in your final decree of divorce primary residence of your children. With that said, you will almost certainly find yourself Staring down the possibility of being named as the possessory Conservatory or primary conservator of your children in child support, child custody, or divorce case. In my opinion, this is the starkest difference between being named one or the other. 

These child support payments are typically ordered in regular intervals and a specific amount. Most often you see child support ordered to be paid once a month typically at the beginning. The Child Support division of the office of the attorney general is in charge of receiving child support payments from the possessory conservator and transmitting them to the primary conservator of a child. If you are the parent who ultimately must pay child support then payments will go through this agency to your ex-spouse or Co-parent. 

Once the money is in the hands of your Co-parent then he or she has the responsibility of ensuring that the money is utilized in a way that benefits your child and is in their best interest. On more than a handful of occasions, I have been asked by mothers and fathers alike whether or not there is a means to keep track of The Child Support money and how it is spent. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your outlook, there is no way to keep track of the money once it is sent each month. I imagine that the state of Texas would have to employ a large group of people if only to keep track of Child support payments. 

How does child support end up being paid? 

Now that we know the basis for child support being ordered in divorce and child custody cases we can jump to how the logistics work of a child support payment. After a divorce or child custody case, it is common for a wage withholding order to be submitted by an attorney for review and signature from a judge. When the judge is reviewing and signing all the documents for your case this wage withholding order will be submitted, as well.

What the wage withholding order does is it allows your employer to hold back a certain sum of money each month until further notice to pay child support. The money that is held back will be sent to the child support division of the office of the attorney general in Texas. That agency will then transmit the money to the primary conservator of your children where it can be spent on whatever the primary conservator feels is necessary for the benefit of your children. 

In many ways, you can view a wage withholding order as a kind of automatic deposit or automatic investment into your retirement. In the same way, the money can be paid directly to your Co-parent at the beginning of each month with your not having to do anything. Of course, it is your responsibility to make sure that the payments are being made and are being received by your Co-parent. You can do so by directly communicating with him or her but also by verifying receipt of payment on the office of the attorney general’s website. You can create a username and password and log into an account showing all the details about your child support situation. 

Should you ever pay child support directly to your Co-parent? 

This is a question that I received with some regularity. You may be under the impression that paying your ex-spouse child support directly rather than through the office of the attorney general would be easier and less cumbersome. In a way, I can understand where you are coming from with this. Nobody wants to have the government play middleman for him or her when it comes to receiving or sending money. If you and your Co-parent have a decent relationship you may feel comfortable handing him or her a check each month or paying him or her and whatever means you choose. 

Without a doubt, there are parents in Texas who choose to go about the payment of child support in this way. However, this is not an advisable situation to put yourself in. first and foremost, the office of the attorney general provides you with a service to keep track of all child support payments made in received. From this, there is little doubt as to which payments have yet to be made and how much money if any is still owed in child support. All the information you need to view on this subject is available in black and white clear as day on your computer screen. 

This is supposed to the world of making direct payments to your co-parent in your driveway or on her porch. Even writing her checks and expecting your bank account to be proof of those payments is playing with fire. Your bank account ledger is only half of the story and is not necessarily proof positive of the transaction in child support. You do not want to put yourself in a situation where your ex-spouse or co-parent argues later on that payments you did make were not received or were not received in full. 

How much child support will you end up paying? 

I think this is probably the most relevant question that can be asked regarding child support. Learning how child support is paid and why it is paid is important but where the rubber hits the road is a discussion of how much child support you will be expected to pay every month. The opposite end of this question is how much child support you could expect to be paid each month by your Co-parent. Either way, let’s walk through this issue in greater detail so that you can find out what to expect and apply it to your circumstances. 

The first thing we need to do when calculating child support is to determine what your net monthly income is. Most people derive their income from one source or at most from two sources. Net monthly income takes into consideration money that comes out of your paycheck each month and leaves you with the income that you go home with. If you are a parent who will be receiving child support, then you and your attorney must find out any additional sources of income for your Co-parent and make sure those are added into this calculation. 

Certain types of disability payments under long-term disability, unemployment insurance, dividends from investments, and income from rental properties all count as types of income that should go into this calculation. If you only consider your parent’s primary job and the income from that job, then you are leaving money on the table. It would be wise to submit a discovery request to your co-parent at the beginning of the case so that you can learn of any additional sources of income that might be out there. For the good of your children, this extra step should be followed through with. 

Once you have a solid idea of what your or your co-parent’s net monthly income is then you should begin to consider how many children are before the court. A percentage of the net monthly income will be paid in child support. If you have one child before the court, then 20% of the net monthly income will be paid in child support. Two children before the court mean 25% of the net monthly income will be paid in child support. The percentages will increase by increments of five until you get up to 50% of the paying parent’s net monthly income going towards child support

The question posed by the title of this blog post is a difficult one to answer. An average amount of child support in Texas depends on factors related to the number of children before the court and income. Since these issues are so different for many people involved in child support scenarios it really wouldn’t make sense to even try to guess at the average amount of monthly child support that you may be expected to pay since I don’t know these specific factors for your family. 

My recommendation will be to pull out your calculator and figure out a rough estimate for yourself even before your family law case begins. If you seriously anticipate being the parent who is responsible for paying child support then you can have a much better idea of what your budget will need to look like after a family law case. With this information in mind, you can begin to learn how to budget and cut down on your household costs to be able to consistently meet the obligations inherent in paying child support. 

Post-divorce financial implications of a child support obligation 

The most obvious impact of a divorce on your budget will be that you have less income given that your house likely dropped from a 2 income house to a one-income house. That alone should be reason enough to give you some pause as you build a post-divorce budget for yourself and your family. Your budget and any child support obligations that you have will impact the spending decisions regarding where you live, your ability to pay off any debts that you owe, and your future financial planning. 

The most significantly impactful piece of advice that I can give you in regards to planning your post-divorce finances would be to develop a budget and then learn how to stick to it. Many people cringe at the idea of a budget. These folks will assume that living on a budget means constraining yourself unnecessarily and never being able to enjoy the money that you do have. The reality that you may be experiencing at this time is that you have far less money to spend than you would like and any available funds that you do have to spend on enjoyable things may better be allocated towards paying off debt and things of that nature. 

If you have a situation where you are paying child support as a result of your divorce case then you should certainly add this to your budget as a predictable expense. Getting behind in your child support is not an option that I would recommend that you choose from. Having to defend yourself in an enforcement case for child support a few months or a year after divorce comes to a close will be an unpleasant experience. Not only will you find yourself back in court but you will find yourself having to pay money to a new attorney or at least pay the filing and court costs associated with responding to an enforcement lawsuit. 

On the other hand, If you are the parent who will be receiving child support each month I would not recommend building in The Child Support income as a given each month. Hopefully, you find yourself in a situation where your ex-spouse can consistently pay child support to you in full under the obligation of your final decree of divorce. However, I have also been doing this long enough to understand that this is not always a reality that people can bank on. 

Especially in the period immediately after your divorce, you should begin to try and live as conservatively as possible on the income that you know you can expect each month. Increasing your lifestyle or that of your children immediately after the divorce before you and your ex-spouse get on a schedule and routine of paying and receiving child support would be a mistake. Rather, I would live well within your means for at least the first few months after your divorce so that you can begin to live on a budget and you can learn whether or not child support payments are going to be received in the way that you anticipate. 

The other side of the coin to this discussion is that as the parent who receives shot support payments you may find that the Child Support payments are not enough for you to continue to not work or work on a limited basis. As a result, finding a full-time job for the first time in years may be in your future. This should not be looked on as a negative but as an opportunity for you to develop your skills and professional acumen while displaying and modeling good behavior for your children. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material shared with you today in our blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how the circumstances of your case may interact with the law regarding child support and other family law cases. Thank you for your interest in our law office and we hope you will join us tomorrow as we continue to post more unique and interesting content on our blog.