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Understanding child support in Texas

Parents in Texas may benefit from learning more about the basics of child support orders as described by the state's Office of the Attorney General. According to the OAG, many people are unaware that noncustodial parents can open child support cases by applying online or calling and requesting an application. Afterwards, the child support office will schedule a negotiation conference with the other parent. The case is transferred to the courts if the parents are unable to agree on visitation or child support issues.

The child support guidelines in Texas require noncustodial parents to contribute 20 percent of net income for one child and an additional five percent for each subsequent child. Noncustodial parents with five or more children on child support are required to contribute at least 40 percent of net income. Parents who are unemployed are still required to pay child support. Noncustodial parents who have children in multiple households may have their child support order altered accordingly.

Noncustodial parents who are employed might have the child support payments directly deducted from their paycheck. Otherwise, support payments can be submitted by check or money order to the State Disbursement Unit. Parents can also make the support payments online. The OAG tracks the accounts and allows parents to access their payment history. If neither parent petitions for child support, the OAG can still open a case once a custodial parent applies for public benefits, such as Medicaid. However, it is worth noting that the OAG has no authority over enforcing visitation rights.

Parents who need help understanding more about child support services might benefit from consulting a family lawyer. These lawyers may be able to help explain specific regulations, while helping parents complete the legal process. Legal counsel may also be effective in negotiations, helping some parents avoid contentious disputes in court.

Source: Office of the Attorney General, "Handbook for Non-Custodial Parents", October 10, 2014

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