Child support payments are paid from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the specific purpose of caring for the needs and well-being of the child the parents had while they were a couple. You don’t have to have ever been married to be obligated provided that you’re the non-custodial father (or mother) of the child.
While most parents have no problem paying child support if they know it will help their children, there is often suspicion and bitterness that swirls around this state-mandated payment. This is usually because divorce or bitter breakups tend to sever the bonds of trust and respect that once united those individuals.
Nevertheless, child support is ultimately a good thing provided calculations are reached in a fair and transparent manner.
Why Child Support Is Necessary
As a custodial parent, you’re responsible for most of the child’s physical and emotional needs. You’re with them at every moment of the day or night. You see them at their worst and stand alongside them at their best. When they’re sick, you’re the one who takes off work. When there are emergency unplanned expenses, you usually have to spring for them.
Factors like these affect the earning power of the custodial parent, and they add to the overall stress level. Child support helps navigate these issues for both parent and child.
How It’s Viewed in the State of Texas
The state of Texas takes a parent’s responsibility to contribute to their child’s well-being very seriously. The Lone Star State uses a rare “percentage of income” model to help calculate what the non-custodial parent will pay in child support. It usually works out to around 25 percent for a single child and goes up gradually for more than one.
Using the one-child example, a parent of one earning $5,000 per month in net income (after taxes) would have to pay $1,250 in monthly child support payments.
That may not seem fair, but when you consider that a child’s expenses are usually 25% of a household budget, the custodial parent is probably contributing the same. And if the contributions aren’t exactly equal, you also need to realize there may be time or educational factors that keep the spouse from earning enough to pay more.
The Fallout from Failing to Pay
Unfortunately for many children, their non-custodial parents either refuse to pay or they simply have too much extemporaneous debt to be able to afford the calculation. As a result, payments can be irregular or nonexistent, creating a financial hardship — and more stress — on a child who’s already trying to adjust to not having their other parent around.
We’ll discuss financial hardships that are beyond your control in a moment. But for now, here are the broad strokes on what to expect should you refuse or fail to pay.
- Jail Time: Typically, a court will not send you to jail if you’re behind on a payment or two. This punishment generally is reserved for severe and flagrant delinquency. After all, the court acts on the behalf of the child, and the last thing that would actually be good for the child is having their (potentially) core source of monetary support away from their employment.
- Monetary Damages: If your failure or refusal to pay continues, it’s also probable that a judge will rule against you monetarily with fines or fees designed to deter you from missing future payments. You also could end up having your wages garnished.
Modifying a Child Support Order
- The payor: If you’re paying what you believe to be too much child support, then you need to be able to prove it to a judge. Fortunately, we have experience doing this kind of work. It entails showing all financial obligations against post-tax dollars and being unable to escape those obligations. Think unavoidable deficit.
- The receiver: If you’re the receiver seeking more child support, then you also need to show where those expenses are needed. For example, your spouse earns more money so that his 25 percent child support becomes 22 percent. You could request a modification to bring those percentages current. There also may be unexpected medical bills that your child will rack up. If you get a $500 or $600 bill in the mail, that’s an extraordinary circumstance wherein the non-custodial parent will need to share in the cost, usually 50/50.
How Retroactive Child Support Works
One final note: retroactive child support is a nightmare situation where you could get dinged for back payments on child support. This may happen with non-custodial parents who fail to accurately report earnings at the time child support is enacted.
Getting It Right the First Time
To avoid any nasty surprises — whether custodial parent or non-custodial — it’s important to be honest, open, and upfront. That goes for both sides of the equation. At Davis, Ermis & Roberts, P.C., we work hard to ensure fairness regardless if we’re representing the childcare expenses or child support sides. Contact us today to learn how we can help you receive the child support outcome your child deserves.