When it comes to child support, there are two sentiments our Fort Worth family law attorneys hear every day. A person receiving child support says the amount they receive is too low, or a person paying support thinks they’re paying too much. That being said, Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code is pretty clear on how much child support the state allows, even though those guidelines don’t always serve the best interest of every child—or their parents.
Texas child support basics
As with divorce law, legal guidelines pertaining to child support and visitation vary from state to state. The state of Texas operates under a presumption of the standard visitation schedule, which follows the first, third and fifth weekends scenario. In addition, Texas parents can ask for an extended standard visitation schedule, which runs Thursday to Monday or Friday to Sunday. Both options allow for 28 days each in the summer and alternating holidays.
In line with the overriding principle of standard visitation, the state of Texas came up with a formula for child support that is income based. Here’s how it works. Say you’re the wage earner, your spouse is a stay-at-home parent, and you have two kids. You would pay 25% of your net financial resources to the other parent in child support. The percentage you pay is based on the number of children you have together (20% for one child; 25% for two; 30% for three; 35% for four; 40% for five; no less than 40% for six kids or more).
There is also a cap on net resources of $8,550 per month. So even if you earn $100,000 per month, you’ll only pay 25% of $8,550 in child support for your two kids, unless you and the other parent agree to a different amount. And, you’ll pay child support until your child turns 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later.
It’s important to note that 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.
Texas could do better for kids when it comes to child support
We think Texas gets it wrong by following a strict, income-based formula capped at $8,550. Other states and countries work off of a case-by-case principle that focuses on figuring out what the average cost is to support each unique child, we think this makes much more sense for both the kids and their parents.
For example, if the wage earner is bringing in over $100,000 per month, the mom doesn’t work and their kids are accustomed to living a certain lifestyle, shouldn’t that be taken into account? On the flip side, if you’re bringing in $5,000 per month, the other parent doesn’t work and you’ve got a 50/50 possession schedule, paying that 25% for two kids is going to seem like a lot, especially if the other parent is capable of working. (In those 50/50 scenarios, we can go into the courtroom and argue about the ability to earn vs. what the party is actually earning.)
Get clear on details and think long-term when negotiating child support in Texas
One of the biggest mistakes couples make 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.
These are just a few examples of details to clarify when negotiating child support agreements in Texas. A reputable attorney who specializes in divorce and child custody can counsel you on the best approach for your situation.
Hire an experienced divorce attorney to help you negotiate a fair child support agreement in Texas
While our goal at the Sisemore Law Firm is always to negotiate a divorce and child custody settlement 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 and would like to learn more about child support options, contact us. Our founder 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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