You will have a lot to get used to during your divorce case. One of those things that you will begin adjusting to during a divorce is either paying child support or receiving child support if you have a child. For today’s blog post, I’m going to write from the perspective of the parent who will be paying child support. The parent who pays child support has the responsibility to ensure that these payments are made on time and in full. While the amount that each parent pays and child support are different the motivation behind paying child support is the same: to make sure that the essentials for your child are covered.
You may currently be paying some form of child support to your Co-parent. Although you had not been to court yet you all may have settled upon a certain number of child support dollars he paid per month to allow for you to contribute monetarily to your child’s upbringing. The key difference is that at some point in your divorce case temporary orders will either be agreed to or set forth by a family judge. Those temporary orders will likely contain provisions for the payment of child support. Rather than having two adjust child support each month based on changing circumstances, you will have the ability to know in advance what you will owe in child support each month.
Well it may seem like your freedom and autonomy are limited by having to pay child support in this way I think it works better for all parties to know in advance what child support will be owed each month. For one, you will not have to renegotiate this subject every so often with your Co-parent. Has it ever happened that your Co-parent has asked you for more money because your child has run into additional costs or he or she had an issue with their income? You may have been forced to adjust your budget on the fly to comply with his or her requests.
Now, with a court order in place, you are only obligated to pay what was agreed to in mediation or what was ordered by a judge. Gone are the days of wandering from week to week what you may have to end up paying in child support and instead you can focus on raising your child as best you can and attending to your own, changing circumstances and living situation. If being in the middle of a child custody or divorce case or enough we are still in a pandemic and your job situation may be up in the air. By understanding what she will own child support on a month to month basis you can better prepare for your financial needs month over month.
Next, you have an assurance through the family laws of Texas that even if you are unable to pay child support each month that your Co-parent cannot withhold Visitation. I have seen many times when apparent has an informal child support agreement with the Co-parent that Visitation is oftentimes withheld for little or no reason based on an issue with child support. These issues can range from the failure to pay child support wherein win the receiving parent wanted it or even for no reason at all. It is the law in Texas that the failure to pay child support is not an excuse to withhold Visitation.
All in all, child support is just another area of your life that you will have to become familiar with as you grow until living in a divided household. There are ways for child support obligations to be met in a fairly simple and efficient manner. That is what I would like to discuss with you today. Namely, what is child support intended to do, how does it get paid, and where two payments go if not directly to your Co-parent?
What is child support intended to do?
Child support is intended to bridge the gap between you and your child’s Co-parent in terms of the dollars spent on raising the child. It is presumed that if your child does not reside with you that your Co-parent spends more money on the essentials of life for your child. As a result, child support is intended to even the score to a certain extent while allowing both you and your Co-parent to play a pivotal role in the rearing of your child. Keep in mind that the state of Texas requires both parents to support your child from a financial standpoint.
If you have Visitation rights to your child then you likely live under something similar to a standard possession order. A standard possession order allows for you to have your child around 45% of the year. This is pretty impressive considering how a typical school year is 9 months long in your Co-parent he’s able to spend almost every school night with your child. Child support is essentially intended to bridge the gap between the 55% of the time that your Co-parent has your child in the 45% of the time you have your child.
Child support is intended to help meet the minimal, basic needs of your child. That does not mean that child support is necessarily supposed to keep your child living in the same manner that he or she was before your divorce. Child support is intended to help pay for the essentials for your child but is not necessarily intended to pay for things like medical costs and school tuition. Likewise, child support is not intended to take the place of special maintenance or any other costs associated with the life of your Co-parent.
With that said, many parents have asked me in the past whether or not there is a way to track how money is being spent by your Co-parent. In these folks’ minds, there will be some method to keep track of the spending at these parents who receive child support and how they utilized the money. More this is a not that I’ve had more than one person asking about the reality is that the state does not actively keep up with how your parent utilizes the Child Support payments.
Additionally, there is no way to pay child support directly to your child. For starters, as a minor, your child is not legally able to own anything. Technically speaking you and your Co-parent own everything that has your child and our responsibility for doing so in the best interest of your child. That responsibility holds with child support, as well. Your Co-parent is obligated to do what is in the best interest of your child in all things including spending and utilizing child support.
Child support is intended to be paid through the office of the attorney general
if you have ever paid child support before a court order then you likely did so directly to your Co-parent. This may have seemed like the most efficient and direct way for child support to be paid but it may have created problems in your life. For instance, did you ever pay child support to your Co-parent and later have that Co-parent tell you that she never received your money or that it wasn’t paid in full? Even if he did so with a check he still may run into issues with having to prove your case to him or her.
Once you get into a temporary orders phase of your case, direct payment of child support is no longer honored. This means that you will not get credit for making direct payments of child support to your Co-parent. Father, an office of the government acts as a clearinghouse for child support payments and you will be ordered, in all likelihood, to make payments through this state office.
The Child Support division of the office of the attorney general functions as the clearinghouse for child support payments made in Texas. When a child support payment is made, the money filters through the office of the attorney general who makes note of the payment and updates your particular account. That money will then be transmitted to your Co parent’s bank account for use to the benefit of your child. You will receive credit for the payment made and can check on the status of your account online under an account that you create.
Again, this type of setup removes any degree of arguing or funny business that can be associated with the payment of child support. No longer will your Co-parent be able to accuse you of not paying child support or making only a partial payment. Rather, if there are any disputes about what has been paid or what has not been paid then you can simply go to the attorney general’s website and look up the information yourself.
Payments are sent to the office of the attorney general directly from your employer via a wage withholding order. A wage withholding order will be submitted to a judge for signature after your child custody or divorce case. The judge will review the order that states your employer must withhold a certain sum of money each month to pay your child support obligation. The frequency with which the money must be withheld and the amount that must be withheld is specific to your case and your circumstances.
How much child support will you have to pay?
This is the question that you should probably have answered early on in your divorce case. I recommend that you tackle this issue early because you may need some time to figure out how to create a budget and live within your means so that you can both provide for your self and for your child in a time where your budget and life will be changing to a certain extent. Determining how much child support you will end up having to pay can be fairly straightforward, however.
The Texas family code contains a chart and guidelines for how to calculate child support for the vast majority of Texas families. A percentage will be applied against your net monthly income to calculate how much child support you owe. Beginning with 20% of your net monthly income and going up to at most 50% of your net monthly income, you can fairly quickly sketch out a rough estimate of what your child support obligation will be.
Depending on your sources of income, investments, employment situation, whether you receive disability benefits of various kinds another factor is your net monthly income may be the most difficult aspect of this entire process. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney may go back and forth on how to accurately calculate your net monthly income especially if you have income coming from multiple sources. If you believe that you are in an atypical situation as far as your income is concerned you should discuss this with your attorney and provide him or her with details and source information for the income that you do earn.
Special circumstances like having a disabled child, disabled spouse, or a child with certain medical needs may end up increasing the amount of child support that you have to pay. Keep in mind that a judge will not order you to pay child support that you do not have it within your budget to pay. Both sides in a divorce or child custody case will submit budgets to the judge so that he has an understanding of what you can pay in what your Co-parent needs to run a household efficiently. As such, it is important for you to get a handle on your finances and to create a personal budget for yourself sooner rather than later after you know that a family law case will be on your doorstep.
Could your child support orders from the divorce be extended to after the divorce?
The purpose of this question is basically to see whether or not you are temporary child support orders could end up becoming permanent after your divorce or child custody case is over with. Keep in mind that there are two main phases to a family law case in Texas: the temporary orders phase and the final orders phase. Both have purposes within the case and the temporary orders phase exists to prepare you for life after your family law case and to establish some ground rules for the case as long as it lasts.
Many people who negotiate on temporary orders or attended temporary orders hearing assume that they will be able to make up for any mistakes that were made at the end of their case. For example, if the Child Support orders or anything else in your temporary orders doesn’t necessarily match with exactly what you wanted to see happen the assumption is that you can simply bide your time and wait until the end of your case to change them for final orders. While this is possible the reality is that final orders end up mirroring temporary orders in many ways.
Therefore, your best bet is to negotiate as hard as you can for temporary orders so that you are set up well when it comes to having favorable final orders. For child support specifically, this means making sure that your net monthly income is calculated correctly. Take a look at how your coopered is choosing to calculate your net monthly income in comparing it to how you are calculating it. If there are major differences then you and your attorney should explore those differences to make sure that no errors are being made. This is the most critical area of the calculation of your child support and you should not skip any steps when it comes to its calculation.
Otherwise, child support can be a fairly straightforward aspect of your child custody or divorce case. That does not mean that it isn’t emotional or contentious at times about the basis of child support as well as its calculation can be fairly straightforward. However, if you have any atypical circumstances in your family be required consideration in your family law case then you need to consult with an experienced family law attorney to learn how these factors may impact your case. Asking questions at the beginning of a case may save you from making mistakes that are critical at the end of a case.
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 contained in today’s 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 go a long way towards helping you learn more about family law in Texas but also how your life could be impacted by the filing of a child custody or divorce case.