Texas guidelines for setting child support don’t address the increased cost of raising children as they mature or contain any mechanism for setting child support payments when couples share custody of their children. Every parent knows that child expenses increase when they begin school because children need larger clothes, school lunches, supplies for activities, and other school related expenses. It’s difficult for couples in litigation to arrange child support based on the age and increased expenses of these children. Moreover, some judges apply statutory guidelines to child support even when couples share custody of their children. By contrast, couples who opt for a collaborative divorce can negotiate child support payments that take account of increased costs as children mature and shared custody arrangements.
Texas guideline child support is calculated by multiplying the net monthly resources of the paying parent by a percentage based on number of children before the court. For example, when one child is involved, the percentage is 20%; for two children it’s 25%, for three it’s 30%; four children earn a percentage of 35%, and for five or more children, not less than 40% of net resources is used as the multiplying percentage. The percentages are reduced if children from a prior marriage are also receiving support.
Above Guideline Support.
Judges may order child support payments outside guideline amounts if justified by the income of the parties and the needs of the children. For example, Texas courts have approved higher child support payments for attending private school, hiring a body guard or a nanny, paying for foreign travel, music lessons, Christmas presents, and vacations. Most judges also authorize child support payments for longer intervals when children are disabled or have special medical needs.
Child Support in Other Jurisdictions.
Unlike Texas, several jurisdictions take into account the age of children and the amount of time each parent spends caring for the children when setting child support. For example, the Australian Department of Human Services uses the parent’s income, the amount of time each parent spends caring for their children, the number of children involved, and the increased cost of raising a child as they mature when setting support payments.
Factors That Influence Child Support.
When negotiating child support payments in a collaborative divorce, several factors are generally used, including the income of the parents, the number of children involved, whether children from a prior marriage are receiving child support, ages of the children, special needs of children, and the amount of time each parent spends taking care of the children. Child support payments typically increase when the paying parent has a higher income, if more children are involved, if the children are older, if they have special needs, and when the custodial parent is the primary care-giver. When there are children from a prior marriage, support payments may be lower.
What About Shared Custody?
Modern couples are more often choosing to share custody of their children when they divorce, and this trend has changed the way child support payments are set in some jurisdictions. Texas statutory guidelines assume the custodial parent has primary childcare responsibility while the other parent has standard visits with the children and pays child support. However, if the parents are sharing child care, does it make sense for either parent to pay child support? There’s a difference of opinion on this issue. One approach assumes that because the parents are taking care of their children equally, there should be no child support payments. The other view is that if one parent has a larger income, he/she should pay child support to the lower income parent based on the differences in the parent’s income.
Texas guideline child support is based on the net income of the paying parent and the number of children in the family. However, this guideline formula doesn’t fit all situations. To fix this mismatch, many jurisdictions consider additional factors such as the age of children and the amount of time each parent spends caring for the children when setting child support payments. Parents who opt for a collaborative divorce can agree to increase child support payments as children mature and if parents share custody, they can adjust the support payments to account for the time each parent actually spends caring for the children. These more complex formula do a better job of meeting the needs of Texas families.