Child support is a hot topic for clients at our Fort Worth family law firm. Some parents say that 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.
Are these parents being unreasonable? OR is it time for the state of Texas to take another look at child support guidelines? 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—and yes, they may surprise you!
No. 1: The way Texas calculates child support is different than other states (and less logical).
Other states calculate child support based on the amount of time the parent has possession of the child, who is paying for what expenses, and who has access to what resources (financial and otherwise). That brings in a litigation component regarding the child support amount itself, which is great because that’s what should happen realistically.
That’s not how it works in Texas. In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that the way other states determine child support is often fairer to parents (and children) than the way it is calculated in Texas.
Here’s how Texas does it: Based on the overriding principle of standard visitation, the state of Texas uses a formula for statutory child support that is based on the number of children a couple has together and the monthly net resources of the payor (parents pay a percentage of net resources based on the number of children). Texas also places a cap on net resources, which is adjusted every six years based on inflation. Effective Sept. 1, 2019, Texas raised the child support cap from $8,550 to $9,200.
Unfortunately, for people who make under that $9,200 per month threshold of support, especially the ones who make right up to it, it’s typically not a fair process. It’s also not fair when an affluent breadwinner makes well over the threshold amount and gets capped at $9,200.
For example, say you have a husband with a medical surgeon’s income of $1.8 million a year and a spouse who has been a stay-at-home mom during their 15 years of marriage. Based on Texas child support guidelines, she ends up with a little over $1,800 a month for a teenager in private school who participates in all sorts of activities that she’s become accustomed to. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That’s not to say that a wealthy breadwinner won’t offer to pay more child support because he or she wants what’s best for his or her child. It simply means that the state won’t require the parent to pay more, unless the child has special needs. Trust us, we see plenty of cases where a more affluent breadwinner refuses to pay above Texas family code chapter 154 state child support guidelines.
No. 2: The average cost to raise a child in Texas is probably higher than the state estimates.
Texas also bases its threshold level for child support on the USDA annual estimate of families’ expenditures (the most recent estimates are based on 2015 calculations). However, in a 2016 report, the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP), operating under the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, asserts that the state’s estimate is flawed.
The CFRP bases that claim on two key facts: The USDA calculations are insufficient for a state “as large and diverse as Texas,” and they don’t account for the additional costs that come into play when you raise a child across two households.
To come up with a better estimate, the CFRP developed the Texas Cost of Raising a Child (CORC) model. According to the CFRP, “The Texas CORC model estimates costs for single-parent and married-parent households, and importantly, across two households and finds that the average annual cost of raising a child across two households ($13,465) is higher than that for both single-parent ($10,616) and married-parent families ($11,004).”
No. 3: Parents who think they pay too much child support, often underestimate child-rearing costs, too.
Let’s be real. It costs a lot to raise a child. In fact, it usually costs a lot more than most parents realize because they overlook or underestimate expenses, like what it costs for the child to participate in sports, ballet lessons or other extracurricular activities.
They also forget about “peer pressure costs”—those extra expenses parents pay for the Air Jordans or designer clothes their kid has to have because all of the other kids do. Something extra always comes up.
And if we’re really getting real here … A lot of parents—men AND women—simply can’t stand the fact that they’re paying money to their ex. Not that they want to begrudge their child food, clothing and a roof overhead. It just stings when they see their ex spend money on themselves (for a vacation, getting nails done, happy hours with the guys, etc.) because they somehow think their child support money is paying for that.
If you feel that way about your ex, it’s time for a reality check. Most parents share the child rearing expenses, which means they both contribute to the child support coffer in some way. Just because your child support payment went into your ex’s account yesterday, and your ex’s paycheck is going in next week, that doesn’t mean he or she is spending your money on himself or herself today.
Need help getting a fair child support agreement in Tarrant County?
Since it is unlikely that Texas child support guidelines will change any time soon, it’s important to hire an attorney who is proficient in handling child custody and support cases near you.
Fortunately, the experienced family lawyers at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth are here to help. To schedule a thorough case review with our founder Justin Sisemore, give us a call at 817.336.4444 or visit our contact page to connect with us online.