Part one of this three-part series on child support gave a basic understanding of child support calculations in Texas based on the statutory guidelines. However, the court may order child support payments in an amount that differs from the recommended guidelines amount if there are circumstances that justify a variance or demonstrate that a higher or lower amount is in the best interest of the child.
The court considers several relevant factors to determine whether application of the statutory guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate given the particular circumstances of the parties, including:
The age and needs of the child
The ability of the parents to support the child;
Any financial resources available to support the child;
The amount of time of possession of and access to the child;
The obligor’s earning capacity if intentionally unemployed or underemployed;
Child care expenses that allow either party to maintain gainful employment;
Whether either party has the managing conservatorship or possession of another child;
The amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually being paid or received by a party;
Educational expenses for the child beyond secondary school;
Benefits either party receives from an employer, another person, or a business, such as an automobile, housing or other benefits;
Paycheck deductions other than those already factored into calculating net monthly resources;
Provision for health insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
Special or extraordinary educational, health care or other expenses of the parties or of the child;
The cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to the child;
Positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a business and investments;
Debts assumed by either party; and
Any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.
The court can depart from the statutory guidelines when calculating child support based on any of the factors listed above in making the child support calculation as long as that determination is in the best interest of the child.
Ultimately, the final child support award must be consistent not only with the “best interests” standard, but also must be just and appropriate given the particular circumstances surrounding the divorce.
This determination can become more complicated if the noncustodial parent is supporting multiple children in different households and/or from different marriages (i.e., the typical blended family). Make sure to keep track of all relevant information relating to any of the factors listed above that might impact the calculation of your child support payment, such as medical bills. If you have a child with special needs, medical issues, or unique educational requirements, above-guidelines support is more likely to be ordered. Also, it is important to let your attorney know if any of the above factors could play a role in your case so that your attorney can properly advise and assist you with determining an appropriate child support amount.
If you have any questions regarding Texas child support payments, give our Fort Worth Family Law Attorneys at Gardner & Smith a call at (817) 737-4000.