New Texas child support maximums hit higher-income payers hardest

As of September 1, 2013, Texas child support guidelines now dictate a significantly higher maximum monthly payment than before for some families. The change was made pursuant to state law (Section 154.125 (a-1)) that provides for an adjustment to be made to child support guidelines every six years to reflect inflation (as measured by an increase in the consumer price index).

It is important to note that there is not an across-the-board automatic increase for all child support payments in the state. The new payment standards are only applicable for those with a gross annual income of at least $124,086. Another way of looking at it is that the new payment standards increase the maximum net monthly income resources available from $7500 to $8550 when making initial statutory child support determinations.

Preexisting child support orders can be modified to reflect the new parameters, but the additional payment maximums will likely not be retroactively applied across the board. Paying parents in the appropriate income bracket should be notified of the new standards and given the opportunity to voluntarily comply before any legal action is taken through the court system or the Texas Attorney General's Office. That is not to say that such action won't be taken by family court judges on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, the Texas Attorney General's Office (Child Support Division) has been quick to point out that no modifications will result in an arrearage just because the past rate was lower than the current recommendations.

Calculating child support payments

Once the parties have agreed that one party will pay child support - or a judge has made the determination that, based upon the child's best interests and other factors set forth in Texas law, support is appropriate - the support amount must then be calculated. Texas Family Code Chapter 154 deals specifically with child support. It is there that the state's guidelines for calculating support amounts are found, and it is there that the changes that went into effect on September 1 have an impact.

Subchapter B, starting at Section 154.061 of the child support laws, gives judges detailed information about the types of income that will be considered for child support payment purposes and what types are not to be included in an income determination. For example, state funds paid for the care of a foster child, and accounts receivable for the potential payer's business, are not considered income for the purpose of establishing support obligations.

The actual guidelines themselves follow in Subchapter C, and call for a base rate of 20 percent of the paying parent (the "obligor" in legal parlance)'s "net resources" for a single child in need of support. An important note: these percentages are only applicable to paying parents whose monthly "net resources" (the income considered by judges to be available for child support payments) are less than $8550 under the newly changed standard.

Questions?

Obviously, child support determinations are complex in nature. It can be difficult to even guess at how much support you are entitled to without the assistance of an attorney, and even harder to determine if you are now entitled to more money under the recently revised statutory net income maximum. Do you have questions about child support issues? Need to seek child support from your child's non-custodial parent? Have questions about the increase in payments due to the new monthly net income cap?

For answers to these and other complicated family law issues, seek the advice of a skilled Texas family law attorney in your area.