Texas guideline child support often doesn’t cover the increased cost of raising older children as they mature, because the children engage in more expensive activities such as sports, dance, music, cars, and dating. The only recourse for couples who litigated their divorce is to file for modification of child support every three years and ask for increased support payments to cover the added costs. However, couples who choose a collaborative divorce can negotiate child support payments that automatically increase as the children mature and avoid the expense of filing litigation every three years.
Litigated Child Support Payments.
Most courts apply statutory Texas guidelines when setting child support. Guideline child support is calculated by taking the paying parent’s gross income and subtracting expenses to generate net income. Support amounts are found by multiplying net monthly resources by a percentage based on the number of children before the court. If 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. These percentages are reduced if children from a prior marriage are receiving support.
Judges sometimes order child support payments above or below guideline amounts if it’s justified by the income of both parties and the needs of the children. For example, Texas courts have approved below guideline child support when the custodial parent has a much higher income than the paying parent, when the custodial parent received substantial funds during the divorce, or when the paying parent earns an uncertain income. Texas courts have ordered above guideline child support to cover the cost of private school, a body guard, a nanny, 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.
Guidelines in Other Jurisdictions.
Some other jurisdictions consider the age of children and the amount of time each parent spends caring for the children when setting child support payments. For example, the Australian Department of Human Services sets child support payments using 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 children as they mature.
Why Do Older Children Cost More?
It’s well recognized by economists, lawyers, and parents that children cost more of they grow older. Older children have many additional expenses compared with younger children, including dating, cell phones, books, supplies, school or sports uniforms, laptop computers, music lessons, auto expenses, parking fees, and summer camps to name a few.
Setting Support in a Collaborative Divorce.
When negotiating child support payments in a collaborative divorce, several factors are used, including the parties income, the number of children involved, whether there are children from a prior marriage, costs of older children, special medical or disability needs of children, and the amount of time each parent spends caring for the children. Child support payments are higher if the paying parent has a large income, if the receiving parent earns little income, more children are involved, if they have special needs, and when the custodial parent is the primary care-giver. When there are children from a prior marriage receiving child support payments, support payments may be lower.
What About Shared Custody?
Some couples choose to share custody of their children when they divorce, and as a result pay little or no child support. Statutory guidelines assume the custodial parent has primary responsibility for the children while the other parent visits the children and pays child support. Some custodial parents try to limit the time a non-custodial parent spends with the children to maximize child support payments.
Texas child support guidelines are based on the net income of the paying parent and the number of children involved. However, other 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 use all these factors and even agree to increase child support payments every year as children mature. If they share custody, they can adjust the support payments to account for the time each parent actually spends caring for the children. Negotiated support payments better meet the needs of Texas families.