Calculating Child Support in Texas

Gavel and money used for Texas child support payments

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The State of Texas – along with every other state – requires parents to support their children financially, even when the parents are no longer together. Child support is the tool used to ensure that both parents fulfill their financial responsibilities to their children.

Texas courts use a child support calculation tool that factors in a range of variables when making decisions about child support, but some situations allow for exceptions. If you have questions or concerns about child support, an experienced Round Rock family law attorney can help.

The Parent Who Pays Child Support

Generally, the primary custodial parent – or the parent who has the children the majority of overnights – receives child support from the other parent. However, even when parents divide their overnights with the kids evenly, the parent with higher earnings typically has the child support obligation.

The Obligor and the Obligee

If you are facing a child support case, it’s helpful to understand the terms used. In Texas, the parent who pays child support is identified as the obligor, and the parent who receives child support is called the obligee.

Child Support Guidelines

Texas has statutory guidelines that determine the child support obligation. This financial obligation is calculated based on a percentage of the obligor's net resources.

The Five-Step Calculation Process

Texas employs a five-step process in the calculation of child support obligations. Contact a knowledgeable Round Rock family lawyer for help applying this process to your own case.

Determine the Obligor’s Income

Texas includes all the following sources when determining the child support obligor’s income:

  • All income from salary and wages, including overtime pay, commissions, tips, and bonuses

  • All income from self-employment

  • All income from interest, royalties, and dividends

  • Net income from rental properties, which is the total rent minus operating costs, such as mortgage payments and the cost of repairs and maintenance

  • Any other received income, including retirement benefits, severance pay, trust income, pensions, capital gains, annuities, and beyond

There are, however, specific forms of income that are excluded from child support calucations:

  • Foster care payments

  • Benefits paid as temporary assistance for needy families or benefits paid through federal assistance programs

  • Accounts receivable

Determine the Obligor’s Net Resources

The child support calculation also factors in the obligor’s meet resources. In order to determine the obligor’s net resources, the following payments are subtracted from the gross income:

  • Social security taxes

  • Federal income tax – based on the rate for a single person who takes the standard deduction and claims one personal exemption

  • State income tax

  • Union dues

Health insurance and dental insurance premiums or cash medical support paid on behalf of the children in question and ordered by the court is also considered. While there isn’t a one-to-one correlation with the healthcare deduction amount, it can reduce the child support payment.

Determine the Support Percentage

The percentage of the obligor’s net income owed in child support is based on the following two factors:

  • The number of children addressed in the current child support case

  • The number of additional children that the obligor covers with court-ordered child support

The percentage rates in Texas for an obligor who is not paying child support for any additional children are as follows:

  • Child support is 20 percent of the net income for one child

  • Child support is 25 percent of the net income for two children

  • Child support is 30 percent of the net income for three children

  • Child support is 35 percent of the net income for four children

  • Child support is 40 percent of the net income for five children

  • Child support is at least 40 percent of the net income for six or more children

When the obligor supports additional children, the amount is reduced by 2.5 percent for each additional child.

Consider Any Exceptional Circumstances

Texas courts base child support obligations on the best interests of the involved children, and the calculation guidelines employed are presumed to support this goal. However, exceptional circumstances and additional factors can justify child support that differs from the guideline amount.

For a court to justify such a ruling, it must deem the amount in the guideline “unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances.” Examples of such exceptions include an obligor who is voluntarily underemployed or who is unemployed as a means of avoiding child support. Further, a child with special physical, educational, or emotional needs may be entitled to enhanced support.

Texas courts consider child support matters on a case-by-case basis, and all of the following factors can affect the outcome:

  • Each child’s age and needs, including any special needs or extraordinary healthcare expenses

  • The cost of each child’s education

  • The children’s daycare costs

  • Each parent’s overall income and resources

  • The amount of time each parent spends with the children

  • Whether the parent who receives child support passed up an opportunity to earn more in order to care for one or more of the children in the case

  • The cost of travel for visitation

Determine when an Automatic Reduction Applies

The children involved in the child support order will age out at different times, and as they do, the child support obligation will be modified accordingly. The child support order will likely include terms related to automatic deductions in child support. The automatic deductions generally come about as a result of the following factors:

  • A child’s marriage

  • A child’s death

  • A child’s enlistment in the armed forces

  • A child’s graduation from high school or their eighteenth birthday, whichever occurs later

  • A child’s triumph over a disability – for general purposes

  • The termination of parental rights based on genetic testing

Every child support case is unique to the specific circumstances involved, and working with a skilled family law attorney with a wealth of experience guiding complex child support cases toward advantageous resolutions is always advised.

Child Support Calculation for High Earners

Child support payments are calculated somewhat differently for those whose monthly net income exceeds $9,200. Texas sets the cap for net monthly income for child support calculations at $9,200. As such, child support calculations differ for higher earners.

This income cap means that anyone who earns more than this amount is only required to pay the appropriate percentage – depending upon the number of children involved – on that first $9,200 of net income. However, if the covered children’s needs exceed the child support amount, it can be increased to cover 100 percent of their actual needs.


If you are facing a child support case or have concerns about your role as an obligor or obligee, the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about child support can help. Additionally, you can contact a skilled Round Rock family lawyer to find answers to questions specific to your case.

What Is an Obligor?

Child support orders address both an obligor and an obligee. The obligor is the parent who is responsible for paying child support. The obligee is the parent who receives the child support payments.

When one parent has the children for the majority of overnights, they are generally the obligee. However, even if neither parent is identified as the primary custodial parent, the higher earner will likely become the obligor, which means they are responsible for paying child support.

Is Child Support Calculated on Gross or Net Income?

Gross income is the total amount of income a person earns, and net income is the total amount of income a person takes home. Child support is calculated on the obligor’s net income, which generally excludes all required paycheck deductions.

What Is Net Income for Child Support?

Net income refers to the amount the obligor brings home – not the total amount they earn. Basic payroll deductions are not included in the child support calculation process, but other deductions are. In other words, the net income stated on the obligor’s regular paystub may not tell the whole story.

What Happens when You Don’t Pay Child Support?

When a parent with a court-ordered child support obligation fails to make the required payments, they are in contempt of court, which can lead to serious consequences. If you are behind in your child support payments, it’s time to address the matter head-on before it becomes even more legally complicated. A trusted Round Rock family law attorney can help.

If you are owed child support but aren’t receiving it, you shouldn’t delay reaching out for legal guidance. Protecting your children’s right to support is key.

Can I Withhold Visitation If My Ex Stops Paying Child Support?

Child support and visitation are two distinct legal matters that are in no way interchangeable. Both are based on the best interests of the involved children, and withholding visitation in response to your ex’s missed child support payments does not benefit your children.

The State of Texas takes the position that children’s best interests are best served when they have the opportunity to deepen their relationships with both parents by spending time with them. On the other hand, child support is designed to support children financially. Only the court has the power to modify either term.

If your ex isn’t paying child support in accordance with the court ruling you received, the best course of action is to consult with a dedicated family law attorney sooner rather than later. Taking the matter into your own hands puts you in contempt of court, which can lead to consequences that are best avoided.

Can We Modify Child Support between Ourselves?

While it’s admirable that you and your children’s other parent are able to negotiate important matters like child support between yourselves, it’s important to understand that you need the court to modify child support officially in your case. However, if you reach an agreement and present it to the court, you can expect the court to sign off on it – as long as your calculation supports the best interests of your shared children.

If you modify support between yourselves and do not take the changes to court, there is no guarantee that your ex won’t change their mind and declare you in contempt of court later. Whatever child support orders are in place remain legally binding until the court modifies them, and staying on the right side of the law is paramount.

When Are Child Support Modifications Granted?

Texas courts grant child support modifications when either one of the parents or the children experience a material and substantial change in circumstances that warrants the change.

Further, if three years have passed since the original order was handed down or was last modified and financial circumstances have changed to the degree that state guidelines would increase or decrease the monthly payment by at least 20 percent or $100, the court will review the case.

What qualifies as a material and substantial change?

The kinds of change that generally qualify as material and substantial include the following situations:

  • The obligor’s income has increased or decreased significantly.

  • The obligor has a new legal responsibility for additional children.

  • The cost of the children’s healthcare coverage has increased or decreased to a significant degree.

  • The children now live with or spend significantly more overnights with the obligor.

Can an Increase in the Obligee’s Income Decrease Child Support?

If you seek a child support modification as the parent who receives child support (the obligee), a significant increase in your own net earnings can decrease the child support you receive. Child support payments are intended to balance the financial responsibility between both parents in relation to their earnings, and an increase in income on the part of the obligee can reduce the amount of child support paid.

Turn to an Experienced Round Rock Family Law Attorney for the Help You Need Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a seasoned Round Rock family law attorney with an impressive range of experience skillfully handling challenging child support cases, and he’s committed to also helping you.

Child support is an important financial matter, so please don’t wait to reach out and contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule a FREE consultation today.

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