Texas parents have an obligation to provide financial support for their children, even if divorced or separated. Child support laws exist to ensure that a noncustodial parent helps the custodial parent pay for the child’s basic needs, such as shelter, food and clothing.
Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code sets forth the guidelines a court must use when issuing a child support order. The child support amount is based on the owing parent’s income and the number of children he is required to support. Percentages are based on a monthly income of $6,000 or less, though a parent who makes more may be required to pay more support, depending upon the child’s needs and the custodial parent’s financial circumstances. The guidelines require an owing parent to pay 20 percent of his income for the support of one child. An additional five percent is assessed for each additional child, up to 40 percent for five or more children.
Texas law requires all employers to follow a wage garnishment order, which is how all child support payments must be made. In wage garnishment, an owing parent’s child support payments are deducted directly from his paycheck and transferred to the custodial parent. This ensures that all child support obligations are satisfied timely.
If a parent falls behind on his child support obligation or fails to make payments at all, the custodial parent can request enforcement of the order. Enforcement methods include seizure of federal and state income tax refunds, seizure of any lottery winnings and suspension of all state-issued licenses (i.e., recreational: boating, fishing and hunting; driver’s and professional: business, law or medicine). Additionally, a parent failing to pay child support can be held in contempt and face six months in jail.
Either parent can petition for modification of a child support order. The court may do so if the petitioner can establish that a significant change in circumstances has occurred. For example, there must have been a change in custody or a substantial increase or decrease in either parent’s income. Informal agreements between the parents will not be enforced. A modification is only valid if it is a court order.
Child support must be paid until a child graduates from high school or reaches the age of 18, whichever is last. Early termination only occurs if a child dies or becomes emancipated via marriage, court order or enlistment in the armed forces prior to age 18.