In Texas divorce and custody cases, courts generally follow the recommended "guideline child support". The Texas Attorney General provides a free calculator you may use to estimate the child support obligation in your case.

To use the Texas Attorney General Child Support Calculator click here.

Child Support Considerations

Financial responsibilities regarding the child are divided between the parents at divorce.  The non-primary conservator (usually the dad) is responsible to feed, clothe and house the child only when they have possession of the child.  The primary conservator (usually the mom) has primary responsibility to feed, clothe and house the child at all other times.  If the child has financial needs beyond those, they usually will be the responsibility of the primary conservator to pay for them (costs for extracurricular activities, school books, etc.).

            The financial obligations of the non-primary conservator are: house, clothe and feed the child when in their possession; pay one-half the uninsured healthcare expenses for the child; pay for health insurance for the child; and pay child support.

           The parents can agree in the decree that no one has to pay child support.  However, keep in mind that many judges will question this arrangement and ask you why you think this is in the best interest of the child (for example, where the primary conservator makes a lot more money than the non-primary conservator).  The court may order child support anyway, even if the parties don’t think it is necessary.  If you are the primary (the child lives with you by default) you may wish you had that extra money in the future in order to help your child.

            Also remember that child support can be adjusted a number of times after the divorce, even if initially the parties agreed to no child support.  The primary conservator can come back to the judge and explain why they need to start child support now, and the court may order it.  Also, child support can be increased (or decreased) by the court (upon request by one of the parties) based on changes in the income of the person paying the support.

            Also note that the person paying child support has absolutely no control over how the other parent uses that money and the Texas courts have ruled that the paying spouse has no right to find out how it is used, either.  By the same token, the parent receiving child support can use the money however they see fit and they do not have to explain how it was used to the other parent. 

            Calculating the amount of child support is easy thanks to the support guidelines set up by the Texas legislature in the Texas Family Code.  Judges use these guidelines because they are easy to apply and give predictable outcomes.  Although these are called guidelines, it is pretty much automatic that the court will follow them exactly.

            The first step is to determine how much the person who will pay support earns per month.  If the person’s income varies due to commissions and bonuses, the court may use past earnings as a guide.  The court may also determine how much the person should be earning if they are currently intentionally unemployed or intentionally underemployed.  The court will, at a minimum, assume you could get a full-time job at minimum wage and calculate and order child support based on that even if you are currently unemployed (meaning you will have to go out and find a job and start paying support).

            From the gross monthly earnings, you subtract what you pay for income taxes and social security (or what the Texas Attorney General says you should be paying for those items), which leaves you with net income.  Note that the legislature has set a cap on net income of $8,550.00, so if the net income is more than that, you reduce it to $8,550.00. 

            Next, you multiply the net income by the guideline percentage depending on how many children there are.  The percentage is 20% for 1 child, 25% for 2, 30% for 3, etc. The percentage tops out at 40%.  (The percentages are different if you have other children by another relationship that you are financially responsible to support through a court order.)  The number you are left with is your monthly child support obligation.

To use the Texas Attorney General Child Support Calculator click here.