Very few people disagree with the idea that children of divorce fare far better when they spend a significant amount of time with both loving parents. When equal possession (when children split their time nearly evenly with both parents) is possible, it can be a great option. Many parents, however, are under the mistaken belief that equal possession arrangements (aka 50/50 arrangements) negate the need for child support, but this simply is not the case.
The Texas Family Code and Equal Possession
The fact is that the Texas Family Code does not specifically address child support as it relates to equal possession of the children. Instead, Texas Code concerns itself with calculating child support payments made by the parent with a visitation schedule to the parent who has primary custody. If you will be sharing equal possession of your children with your soon-to-be ex, one (or both) of you may think that child support is a non-issue. If you earn significantly less than your divorcing spouse, however, you may still qualify for child support – and it is important to take a closer look.
The Parent with Higher Earnings
Although Texas Family Code does not directly address child support and equal possession, the court – in its vast discretion – is not likely to ignore the issue of one parent’s higher earnings when it comes to issues related to child support. The intent of Texas child support is to protect the best interests of the children involved. If your ex earns significantly more than you do, the divorce will leave you with fewer resources to provide for your children when they reside with you – and the court will want to address this issue. While the court is not legally bound to do so, it uniformly offsets a discrepancy in earnings with child support payments.
The Calculation Process
In situations in which parents share custody of their children more-or-less equally, Texas courts generally calculate child support in the following manner:
- Calculate child support based upon the mother’s earnings
- Calculate child support based upon the father’s earnings
- Determine child support based on the discrepancy (the higher earner pays the lower earner the difference in amounts)
In other words, the higher earner will be required to pay child support regardless of whether he or she has equal custody of the children (though his or her payments will likely be reduced by the fact of equal possession). The reasoning behind this is that, while the higher earner can likely afford to make the child support payments, the other parent would be hard-pressed to adequately provide for the shared children without it.