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Texas law establishes guidelines for the amount of child support a person can be ordered to pay. Courts are directed to calculate child support based on a person’s income, using different percentages depending on how many minor children will be receiving support. Rather than gross income, state law uses net income, defined as income after federal income taxes. The law also sets a maximum amount of income that may be used to calculate child support, and directs the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to revise the maximum amount every six years. The most recent revision occurred in 2019. As of September 1, 2019, the maximum amount of net income, or “net resources,” that may be used in child support calculations is $9,200.
Courts in Texas calculate child support based on the “net resources” of the person obligated to pay, known as the “obligor.” First, the law defines “resources” to include:
Resources, as defined by state law, do not include certain forms of income, such as federal public assistance income, foster care payments, and Supplemental Security Income.
To arrive at “net resources,” state law directs the court to deduct the following from total resources:
The OAG publishes a tax chart every year which shows net resources for gross monthly income of $1,200 up to the maximum amount, based on deduction of FICA, Medicare, and federal income taxes.
The guideline amounts of monthly child support, according to the Texas Family Code, are as follows:
Texas law sets a maximum amount of net income for child support calculations. As mentioned, this amount has been $9,200 since September 1, 2019. This means that, no matter how much net monthly income a person receives above $9,200, the guideline child support amount will be a percentage of $9,200.
In 1995, the Texas Legislature set the maximum amount of net resources for child support calculations at $6,000. It increased the cap to $7,500 in 2007, and directed the OAG to adjust this amount every six years based on the consumer price index (CPI). The Legislature modified the method for adjusting the cap in 2009. The last time the OAG adjusted the cap before last year was in 2013, when it increased it to $8,550.
Note that the cap refers to net resources. According to the first tax chart released by the OAG for 2019, before the increase in the cap, an individual would have to make $11,411.40 in gross monthly income to have net monthly resources of $8,550. For a self-employed person, monthly gross income of $12,260.53 would result in that amount of net income.
The OAG published a notice in the Texas Register on July 12, 2019 announcing the increase in the maximum net resources for child support calculations. It noted that, during the relevant time period, CPI increased by 7.67061%. It applied that percentage of increase to the existing cap, which was $8,550, and arrived at $9,200. According to a revised tax chart published by the OAG, monthly gross income of $12,283.29 and $13,143.15 would result in the maximum net income for employed and self-employed individuals, respectively.
State law presumes that child support based on income at or below the cap is in a child’s best interest. It refers to an award of child support within the guidelines as the “presumptive award.” A court can award additional child support when an obligor’s net income is above the cap, “depending on the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.” This is within a court’s discretion, meaning it is not mandatory.
Income and need are the only two factors mentioned in the statute. A court cannot increase child support above the guideline amount because of misconduct by the obligor or any other dispute between the obligor and obligee. It must all be based on how much both parties make and how much the child or children need.
When a parent proves that a child’s needs are greater than the presumptive award, the Texas Family Code states that courts should subtract the presumptive award from the greater amount, and then “allocate” the obligation to pay the remaining amount “according to the circumstances of the parties.” This could mean that the obligor pays the entire amount, or that the other party shares some of the burden. The total child support award cannot, by law, exceed the presumptive amount or the child’s proven needs, whichever is greater.
Board-certified family law attorney Stacey Valdez represents people in the greater Houston, Texas area who are going through profoundly difficult ordeals like divorce and child custody disputes. You and your family will always be a top priority at Stacey Valdez & Associates. We are committed to advocating for our clients rights and interests with tireless advocacy and compassion. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today online, or give us a call at (713) 294-7072. Your first meeting with us is free in most situations.