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  • Writer's pictureRobert Tsai

Decoding Child Support Laws in Texas: What Every Parent Should Know

Texas Child Support Agreement with gavel over it and family law book with cash over it.

Understanding child support laws is important for parents in Houston and around Texas to navigate family law easily. Whether undergoing divorce proceedings or already divorced with children, comprehending the regulations around child support can significantly impact parental responsibilities. Here's a comprehensive breakdown:

Texas Child Support Laws Basics

In Texas, parents are legally required to provide financial support for their children, which covers essential needs like clothing, food, shelter, and education. Family courts may direct one or both parents to make monetary contributions towards these essentials. It's important to note that this responsibility falls solely on parents; other relatives or non-parent guardians are not legally obligated in the same way. Determining the amount of child support is complex and guided by regulations that base the amount on the obligor's net income.

Typically, child support payments continue until the child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school, as stipulated by state guidelines. Once a court order for financial support is in place, the custodial parent can seek assistance from the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office or a private attorney if they aren’t receiving the payments, as discussed in more detail below.

Guideline Child Support

Many custody cases involve a standard possession schedule combined with what is often referred to as "guideline support." Under this arrangement, one parent is usually designated as the primary conservator who holds the majority of physical custody rights. The other parent, who typically has visitation rights, is often responsible for making a financial payment to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child. The amount of that payment depends on that parent’s monthly income, which might include earnings from employment, self-employment, gifts, and more. Even if that parent is unemployed, individuals are presumed to have a minimum wage income for the purpose of these calculations.

Deviation from Guidelines

Though statutory guidelines typically govern child support calculations, courts are allowed to make deviations based on the unique circumstances of each case. With evolving possession schedules and shared custody trends, the application of guidelines becomes more nuanced, especially in 50/50 possession scenarios. The court can order either or both parents to make payments to support a child. Additionally, although courts mainly order monthly payments, they can opt for lump sums, annuities, property set-asides, or payments from retirement plans.

Does Child Support Count as Taxable Income? Is Child Support Taxable?

In general, child support payments are not considered taxable income for the recipient, and the payer cannot claim them as deductions on their tax returns. This is to because the financial support is supposed to be for the benefit of the child, not the custodial parent. However, it's essential to consult with a tax professional or attorney for personalized advice, as tax laws can vary based on individual circumstances and locations.

Medical Support and Expenses

In addition to regular child support, court-ordered payments also involve the child's healthcare needs, including health insurance coverage and unreimbursed medical costs, such as dental care or vision treatment. The duration of medical support runs parallel to the timeline of regular child support payments, ensuring that the child's healthcare needs remain adequately addressed and factored into the overall support framework. This dual support structure aims to safeguard the child's health and well-being, addressing both ongoing health insurance coverage and potentially unforeseen medical expenses.

Enforcement Mechanisms

There are a range of legal mechanisms for ensuring compliance with child-support orders. Non-custodial parents who fall behind on support payments can face legal repercussions, including fines or even imprisonment for contempt of court.  The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is empowered with enforcement tools such as intercepting tax refunds or suspending passports to compel adherence to support obligations. These measures underscore the serious consequences of failing to meet child support responsibilities and the authority wielded by the OAG to enforce compliance through various legal means.

The Role of the OAG

The Texas OAG's Child Support Division is a critical resource for parents dealing with child support matters. The division offers support to both receiving and non-receiving parents at no cost to the parent but contends with substantial caseload volume. This often leads to extended wait times for case resolutions. Unfortunately, the longer the case remains unresolved, the more complex and arduous the process of securing back child support becomes. 

Parents have options outside of the Child Support Division, including hiring an attorney to pursue their claim for unpaid child support. If you bring a private enforcement action, it is possible that you’ll be able to resolve the case more quickly.

Understanding Texas’s child support laws is crucial for navigating parental responsibilities effectively. For those seeking more information on child support, consulting legal experts like the Law Office of Robert Tsai can provide clarity and legal guidance. Gain insight into your rights and obligations concerning child support laws by scheduling a consultation with our knowledgeable family law attorneys. Ensure your child's financial well-being by exploring your legal options today.

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