The Texas legislature has established child support laws in an attempt to provide financial stability for children growing up in Texas with one parent. While all Texas parents have a legal obligation to support their children, child support is commonly at issue in divorce, visitation and paternity cases. Accordingly, family courts are often called upon to calculate amounts and enter orders governing payment.
Judges are granted wide discretion in calculating child support payments. The primary criterion is the best interests of the child. That said, the legislature has created guidelines for use by the courts. For a parent who has no children outside the proceedings, the guidelines suggest 20 percent of the parent’s income be paid as child support for one child, and 25 percent for two. For six or more children, the guidelines suggest a minimum child support payment of 40 percent of the parent’s income.
The guidelines are more complicated in cases where the parent also has children from other relationships, but they still establish percentages based on the number of the children involved. The court may consider factors other than the guidelines in making its determination, including the relative ability of the parents to contribute support, the age and needs of the children involved and the costs of education and child care.
A family court may also consider health care expenses, the earning potential of the parents or any of a number of other factors. In a case where its support order differs from the guidelines, the court must include an explanation of the reasons for the variance. An attorney with experience in family law matters may be able to guide a divorcing parent through the child support process while explaining the guidelines and how they are used by courts.