Former TV star Darius McCrary (hit show Family Matters’ Eddie Winslow) was recently ordered to pay a paltry $29 in monthly child support for his toddler daughter. He reported less than $500 of monthly income.
The former teen actor previously told the court that he was having a hard time finding work and wasn’t even able to afford the required visitation monitor to see his child.
Child Support in Texas
Family Law Attorney Jaclyn Y. Roberson, of the Law Office of Jaclyn Y. Roberson, PLLC, is a child advocate. Ms. Roberson has substantial experience working to protect children and families, and for enforcing child support obligations. Ms. Roberson explains how child support works in Texas.
Physical custody – how much time a parent spends with a child – determines who pays the most child support. That usually means that the parent with the least amount of parenting time will be required to pay child support.
The parent who pays (owes) child support is called the “obligor”; the other parent who receives child support is the “oblige.”
Payments are based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. Here is a useful online calculator to estimate payments. Parents can pay more, but not less (without court approval). If the amounts from Texas child support guidelines are unfair based on a family circumstances, a court may make adjustments.
Net Monthly Income
For child support, income includes:
- salary, wages, commissions, tips, overtime, bonuses
- severance pay
- retirement benefits
- unemployment benefits
- workers’ compensation
- social security
- rents from rental properties
- a second house or automobile
Also, if a parent is intentionally unemployed (or underemployed), a court can attribute income based on what he should earn.
For a complete list of what to include and exclusions, see Texas Family Code Section 154.062.
In addition to child support amount (determined by the guidelines), parents need to pay for children’s health insurance. Usually the non-custodial parent is responsible, but again it depends on each family’s unique situation (for example, if the custodial parent’s employer provides health insurance, but the non-custodial parent’s employer doesn’t).
Presumption from Guidelines
The judge presumes that the guideline figure is the correct amount of child support. However, sometimes that amount isn’t fair, and you can ask the court to review your case and make appropriate changes. Some factors the court will consider for a possible upward or downward adjustment are:
- how much time a child spends with each parent
- the child’s needs and age
- parents’ ability to support the child
- the parents’ resources and liabilities (debts)
- expenses for daycare
- other existing alimony payments
- college expenses
- job benefits
- extraordinary expenses (for example, a child with disabilities)
- how much travel incurred to spend time with a child
Changing a Child Support Order
You can ask to change the child support order, if either parent has a material and substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change usually means a change in custody arrangements or loss of a job, among other reasons.
Child support is more than about money – it is essential for each child’s health and security, for peace of mind, and to relieve anxiety, tension and stress. But too often, there just doesn’t seem to be enough money to go around. You may want to modify your child support order for the following reasons:
- you feel you are paying too much child support
- your former spouse isn’t paying his or her full child support obligation on time
- you can’t afford to pay the child support amount
- you want to increase or decrease your child support payment
The Law Office of Jaclyn Y. Roberson, PLLC is a family law and estate planning firm based in San Antonio serving the citizens of South and Central Texas.