Child support is money one parent pays to the other parent to help pay for costs involved in raising the children. These costs include money for basic needs such as food, housing, clothes, and medical care. It also includes payments for school supplies and extracurricular activities. For younger children, it includes the cost of day care.
The party who pays child support is called the “obligor” and is generally the noncustodial parent. The one who receives the funds is the “obligee” and is often the parent with whom the children live most of the time.
Texas law provides Guidelines which the courts use to determine how much child support an obligor will pay to an obligee. The court can deviate from the Guidelines if the judge makes it clear on the record that the amount of support the obligor is ordered to pay is in the best interest of the children.
Summary of the Guidelines
The court first evaluates the income of the paying parent and uses a formula to determine a monthly amount of child support. This amount depends on the number of children for whom the parent must pay support and whether there are other biological children from another relationship the parent is supporting. A court may take other factors into account when fashioning a support order including:
- The children’s ages and any specific requirement each child may have.
- Unusual medical circumstances and needs of a child.
- Which parent pays health insurance premiums for the children and the amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Parents may make their own child support agreement and submit it to the court. If the court agrees it is in the best interest of the children, it will approve the agreement and make it the court’s final support order. If the parents cannot agree on an amount, the Judge will calculate and order a monthly amount to be paid.
Child support must generally be paid until the child turns 18 and graduates from high school, whichever comes last. Support may be ordered to continue longer if a child is disabled. If a child under the age of 18 dies or gets married, then the obligor is no longer required to pay child support.
How is Child Support Paid?
Child Support is typically paid to the Texas Disbursement Unit of the Office of the Texas Attorney General. Child Support is usually withheld from the obligor’s paycheck by his or her employer, who sends the funds directly to the state. The funds are then sent via check to the obligee or direct deposited into the obligee’s bank account. If an obligor is self-employed, then child support must be individually paid to the State Disbursement Unit. When a final decree or order is filed in a case, a separate income withholding order is filed with the court and sent to the employer to initiate the wage withholding and child support payments through that employer.
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