In Texas, physical custody—the amount of time a parent spends with a child—determines who will make child support payments. Although a judge may order either or both parents to support a child, in most cases the “noncustodial parent” (the parent with the least amount of time with the child or children) pays child support. (This parent is also called the “obligor” in Texas child support laws.)
Just because the noncustodial usually pay child support, that doesn’t mean the other parent is off the hook for the costs of raising a child. Instead, the law assumes that the custodial parent support the child by spending money directly on the daily cost of raising the child.
How to Use the Texas Child Support Guidelines
Under the “income percentage” method used in the Texas child support guidelines, the amount of child support is generally based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s net monthly income.
For a simple estimate of child support in your case, you may use the online Monthly Child Support Calculator provided by the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG). But the calculator is designed only for situations when the custodial parent has a single source of income. For all other situations, you’ll need to determine net monthly income and the guideline amount of support by following the steps explained below.
Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Support
For child support purposes, income includes:
- all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
- self-employment income
- interest and dividends
- net rental income from property the parent owns
Even unemployed parents probably still have some income from sources such as:
- severance pay
- unemployment benefits
- retirement benefits
- veterans’ benefits
- disability benefits, or
- workers’ compensation awards.
If it’s appropriate, a judge may also assign an income value to a parent’s assets that don’t currently produce income (like a second house). For example, if an unemployed parent inherits property that could be sold, the judge might consider the property’s market value as part of the parent’s income.
When parents are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to avoid making support payments, judges may impute (attribute) income based on what those parents should be earning.
Net Income for the Texas Child Support Guidelines
- To figure the parent’s net resources for paying child support, subtract the following costs from the total gross income:
- Social Security taxes or, if the parent doesn’t pay those taxes, any mandatory retirement plan contributions
- federal and state income taxes (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
- union dues
- health and dental insurance premiums and other medical expenses for the child(ren) that the judge has ordered the parent to pay.
Parents who already pay child support for another child or children (from a different relationship) may take a credit for those payments. (Tex. Fam. Code §§ 154.062, 154.128, 154.129 (2022).)
In addition to the support amount determined by the guidelines, the parents will also have to cover the child’s health insurance.
Number of Children Requiring Support
Once you’ve established the noncustodial parent’s net monthly income (1/12 of the annual net income), multiply that number by a percentage based on how many children will be included in the child support. When net income isn’t above or below a certain threshold, the percentages are as follows:
- 1 child = 20%
- 2 children = 25%
- 3 children = 30%
- 4 children = 35%
- 5 children = 40%
- For 6 or more children, the amount must be at least the same as for five children
If the noncustodial parent’s net monthly resources are less than $1,000, each of the percentages shown above are reduced five percentage points (so they range from 15% to 35%).
When the noncustodial parent has net monthly resources above a certain level ($9,200 a month, under the adjustment made in 2019), the judge may increase the amount of support, depending on both parents’ incomes and the child’s needs.The threshold changes every six years to account for inflation.
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