Providing financial support for a child is an important part of being a parent. When parents are divorced, one parent usually — although not always — pays child support to continue providing that sense of financial security. However, a parent cannot rely on a friend or family member’s support order as a predictor of what he or she might pay. In Texas, judges take a variety of factors into account.
When one parent has primary custody of a child, the noncustodial parent generally pays child support. The amount that a parent is ordered to pay should be fair and used to cover some of the child’s expenses. This may include direct expenses such as new clothes and school supplies, or indirect expenses like housing and grocery costs.
Judges will look at a person’s income when determining what a fair amount looks like. However, income can apply to much more than what a person receives in a paycheck. For example, earned interest, income royalties, retirement income, severance pay, Social Security benefits, prizes, gifts, alimony and more all count as income. Incoming money that does not count toward income includes things like payments for caring for a foster child and return of capital or principal.
The noncustodial parent will have to provide proof of his or her income. This means submitting pay stubs, benefit documents, income taxes and any other information that accurately reflects net monthly income. Any indication that the parent is earning much less than he or she could potentially bring in, or that a current status of under or unemployment is an effort to minimize monthly payments, can result in child support payments calculated on imputed income. An imputed income is how much a person could potentially earn and is not necessarily a reflection of actual income.
Not all parents are pleased to learn that they will have to pay child support after a divorce, but understanding how judges determine a fair and appropriate amount can be helpful. Still, Texas judges are still human, and it is possible that a parent could end up with a support order that is unreasonable or impossible to pay. Others may experience a sudden change in finances and find that they can no longer keep up with support payments. In these types of situations, returning to court to petition for a modification of a support order can be essential.