Child Support may create more arguments in the world of family law than any other single issue. It is clearly one of the biggest points of contention in most divorces.
Although most people have some awareness of how the system works, the technicalities and subtleties of the system are often misunderstood and confusing. In many cases, the parties think they have worked out an agreement for an "uncontested" divorce until one or both spouses see the proposal in writing and begin to understand more about the system.
The first rule of Child Support is that the court may order either or both parents to support a child in whatever manner it believes to be in the child's best interest. In most circumstances, the support can be ordered until the latter of the child reaching 18 years of age or graduating from high school. If the child is disabled, the court can order Child Support to be paid for an indefinite period.
In considering the amount of Child Support to order, the court is prohibited, by statute, from considering the sex of the person paying the support, the person receiving the support, or the child. Also, it is impermissible for the court to consider the marital status of the parents of the child. This obviously means that Child Support can be ordered in the case of parents that are still married, or that were never married.
Despite what happens in the real world in most cases, the Texas Family Code allows judges the discretion to analyze Child Support from the standpoint of far more than a simple mathematical computation. Although quite often the Child Support Guidelines contained in the Texas Family Code are considered as absolutes, in reality, the Code allows the court to consider factors including,
(1) the age and needs of the child;
(2) the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;
(3) any financial resources available for the support of the child;
(4) the amount of time of possession of and access to a child;
(5) the amount of the obligee's net resources, including the earning potential of the obligee if the actual income of the obligee is significantly less than what the obligee could earn because the obligee is intentionally unemployed or underemployed and including an increase or decrease in the income of the obligee or income that may be attributed to the property and assets of the obligee;
(6) child care expenses incurred by either party in order to maintain gainful employment;
(7) whether either party has the managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of another child;
(8) the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or received by a party;
(9) the expenses for a son or daughter for education beyond secondary school;
(10) whether the obligor or obligee has an automobile, housing, or other benefits furnished by his or her employer, another person, or a business entity;
(11) the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal services of the parties;
(12) provision for health care insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
(13) special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or of the child;
(14) the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to a child;
(15) positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a business and investments;
(16) debts or debt service assumed by either party; and
(17) any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.
Whether the court will consider these factors in any individual case is a matter to be discussed with your attorney. Making a mistake on Child Support can cost you and your children your financial future. Entering an agreement on Child Support without competent legal counsel may very well be one of those mistakes.
Here are some Beal Law Firm Resources that may help you with your Child Support questions: