Many divorced parents who pay or receive child support in Texas think it is relatively straightforward. Parents figure out how much child support needs to be paid or received based on the Texas child support laws.
Court orders confirm the amount and method of payment. If parents disagree, there might be a court hearing or required mediation to arrive at the right amount, but eventually, a court-ordered child support payment is made. And that’s that, right?
While child support may be straightforward in some cases, parents often disagree. In addition, how Texas calculates child support is different than other states. We might even argue that the child support formula Texas uses doesn’t make logical sense, with the amount allowed inadequate or unfair to some parents.
It’s also worth noting that child support is “big business” in Texas, In fact, Texas child support is akin to a nearly $4.4 billion business, the amount collected in 2018—higher than any other state in the nation. Because the system is so large, it can be slow to change and remain stuck with old technology and procedures far longer than anyone would like.
HOW THE PROCESS WORKS: Many people are unaware that parents can apply to open child support cases by requesting application forms and applying online or in person. Afterward, the child support office will schedule a negotiation conference with the other parent. If the parents are unable to agree on visitation or child support issues, the case will be transferred to the government courts. If you have questions about the process, it’s typically best to contact the child support offices Texas makes available to you in the county where you reside.
If neither parent petitions for child support, the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) can still open a legal 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.
HOW THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT IN TEXAS IS DETERMINED: In general, child support guidelines in Texas include:
In addition, Texas Family Code Chapter 154 does include certain allowances for children with disabilities, special needs and mental health issues, as well as medical coverage. If your child requires special medical care or support, your attorney can help you work out a settlement that addresses those needs.
HOW CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS ARE HANDLED IN TEXAS:
Many parents who speak with our Fort Worth family lawyers say child support guidelines in Texas don’t adequately address their children’s needs. Conversely, other parents tell us their paychecks aren’t big enough to cover child support and the rest of their bills.
Do Texas child support guidelines miss the mark? As detailed above, chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code is pretty clear on how much child support the state allows. Unfortunately, those guidelines don’t always serve the best interest of every child—or their parents.
While some parents do have unrealistic expectations about child support, our state’s guidelines don’t make sense for a lot of Texas families either. Here are three reasons we should all take a closer look at child support in Texas.
One of the biggest causes of division when negotiating a divorce with child support is not taking time to hammer out what the child support will actually cover. One parent may assume it covers extracurricular activities, while the other may not. If you want to avoid conflict down the road, it’s important to classify—in writing—what expenses will be covered by child support and who will be paying for what.
Other parents run into problems when they agree to split heftier expenses like private school tuition. Those expenses can vary greatly depending on which private school a child attends, so it’s important to spell out specifically how much you are willing to pay. School, extracurriculars and other expenses also get more costly as kids get older, so you’ll want to keep that in mind as well.
While our personal goal at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth is always to negotiate a child support agreement that best meets our client’s goals, we also believe it’s important to try to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides. People who start getting greedy and ask for too much usually find out that approach backfires. Extending the olive branch can go a long way.
If you live in Tarrant County or surrounding counties like Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Parker or Wise County and have more questions about child support options, contact us. Our founder Fort Worth divorce lawyer Justin Sisemore would be happy to meet with you one-on-one to review your case. To schedule a consultation with Justin, call the firm at (817) 336-4444 or visit our contact page to schedule online.
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