Child Support and Medical Support

Child Support and Medical Support - Family Law Attorney Sonya B. CoffmanTexas courts, the Texas Attorney General and the Texas Legislature are serious about parents providing for their children. In fact, they are so serious that the Texas Family Code contains specific child support guidelines. These guidelines require child support to be calculated as a percentage of the first $9,200 per month of the payer’s (Obligor’s) net resources subject to the following caps per number of children:

1 Child

20% of Obligor’s Net Resources (cap of $1,840)

2 Children

25% of Obligor’s Net Resources (cap of $2,300)

3 Children

30% of Obligor’s Net Resources (cap of $2,760)

4 Children

35% of Obligor’s Net Resources (cap of $3,220)

5 Children

40% of Obligor’s Net Resources (cap of $3.680)

6 or more Children

Not less than 40% of Obligor’s Net Resources

These guidelines may be decreased based on the number of children an Obligor has from a previous relationship that he or she also supports. The court also may vary from the guidelines based on (i) the needs of the children, (ii) the ability of the Obligor to pay child support, (iii) debts the Obligor assumed as part of the divorce, (iv) travel expenses incurred for visitation, and (v) whether the Obligor is supporting another child attending college.

Net resources is a broadly defined term. It essentially includes an Obligor’s monthly gross income from all sources less payroll taxes, federal income taxes, union dues and health insurance premiums paid for the children (which Texas courts often require the Obligor to pay). If an Obligor’s net resources are more than $9,200 per month, the court will generally apply the above percentages to the first $9,200 of net resources, but may order an additional amount of child support calculated on the excess.

Assuming the Obligor is employed, child support may be deducted directly from his or her paychecks. Absent marriage or other acts that will cause a child to be considered an adult, child support payments will continue until a child reaches age eighteen (18) or graduates from high school, whichever is later. If, however, a child is disabled or incapacitated, child support payments could continue indefinitely past age eighteen (18).

Parents often ask whether the other parent can be required to pay some (or all) of a child’s college expenses. The short answer is that a court does not have the authority to order a parent to provide child support after a child reaches the age of eighteen (18) and graduates from high school (except in the case of a disabled or incapacitated child). That said, parents can enter into a binding and enforceable agreement to pay a child’s expenses past the age of eighteen (18).

In addition to child support, Texas parents also are required to provide medical support for their children–typically in the form of health insurance for as long as child support is required. If health insurance is provided, parents often are required to split any uninsured medical expenses (e.g., out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles, eyeglasses and dental) on a 50/50 basis.

Texas courts can and will enforce child support orders. An Obligor’s refusal to pay child support–even if the former spouse refuses to let the Obligor visit the children–could result in severe sanctions, including jail time and loss of the Obligor’s driver’s license, professional licenses and/or hunting licenses. Likewise, if an Obligor refuses to pay child support, his or her visitation rights cannot be withheld by the other parent. The proper remedy is to seek enforcement of the child support order, not violate the child custody and visitation order.

Divorce is a traumatic experience for children. They should not also have to worry about whether there will be enough money in the house to buy groceries. If you need to secure a child support order or enforce a child support order–including orders under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act where the parents live in different states–call Sonya Coffman. Because . . . family matters.