Heading into a divorce, one of the hardest things to deal with is the uncertainty. You may have heard horror stories from friends about how they're paying much more in child support than they can reasonably afford. If you conferred with an attorney, he might have left your head spinning with explanations of how support is technically calculated. If you live in Texas, however, you'll catch a bit of a break, at least when it comes to understanding the process. This is one of a few states that still calculates child support according to percentage of income guidelines.
Percentage of Income Model
The percentage of obligor's income model for calculating support requires that you pay a set percentage of your net income, after taxes and union dues, based on the number of children you have. These guidelines do not take your spouse's income into consideration, only yours. The equation is straightforward: if you have one child, you pay 20 percent of your salary. If you have two children, you pay 25 percent, and support increases to 30 percent if you have three children. The scale tops out at 40 percent for five children or more.
Texas law requires that you provide health insurance for your children if it's available to you at a reasonable cost. The state takes the guesswork out of what the court considers reasonable; it's 9 percent or less of your annual income. Texas addresses medical care for your children, including insurance, in a separate medical support order, and the child support guidelines take this into consideration. If you don't have or can't get insurance at a reasonable cost, the medical support order makes provisions for how you're going to pay directly for your children's health care needs. You can deduct your contribution under the terms of the medical support order from your income for purposes of calculating child support. The percentage is based on the balance of your income after these expenses are considered.
Children From Other Relationships
Texas recognizes that all children are entitled to support from their parents, and the state's family code does not give to one family at the expense of another. For example, if you have children from another relationship who also require your support, the statutory percentages of your income are reduced. Instead of paying 20 percent for one child in your current divorce, you'd pay only 17.5 percent if you're also supporting another child. If your other child support order covers three children, your percentage drops to 14.75 percent for one child of this marriage. If you eventually remarry and have another child after your divorce is behind you, you can petition the court to modify the child support terms in your decree to accommodate your new dependent.
Guidelines are just what they sound like -- a basic framework that applies to most, but not all, families. Texas law allows judges to deviate from the statutory percentages under special circumstances. For example, if your child has special needs, you might pay more. If you have joint physical custody so your child spends just as much time with you as with her other parent, a judge can reduce your child support obligation accordingly. Texas law requires you to pay support until your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. Support can terminate sooner if your child marries or goes into the military.