Texas child support laws say that upkeep is mandatory in the state, and parents, whether married or unmarried, must pay until the child is 18.
However, what determines who pays is the amount of parenting time you have. Meaning, often child support is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent. It may sound unfair, but the law assumes that the custodial parent spends his or her share directly on the child. That situation raises plenty of questions, the most important ones being;
What is child support supposed to cover in Texas? Does child support end automatically when the child turns 18? Why is my child support order unfair? And plenty of other related questions.
Below, you will find all the answers you need in 6 minutes or less!
How to apply for child support in Texas
In Texas, the Child Support Division (CSD) under the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to offer child welfare services including, child support application, medical support, dental support, and all child support services for dependent children.
That means to apply for services. You must create a CSD account here or apply in person at the nearest child welfare offices. Find child support locations in Texas on the linked map.
During application, you must provide as much information as you can. On top of that, the application process can take up to an hour to complete-meaning, try as much as you can to provide accurate information, or you may have to repeat the process from the beginning.
What the CSD needs from the applying parent includes personal information such as both parent’s names, last known address, telephone number, social security, employer name and address, and any other document that may be useful.
You will also need the name of the child(ren), birth certificate(s), location of birth, or any other supporting document you can provide.
What to remember:
- Parents who have experienced domestic violence or fear applying may seek help from the Child Support and Family Violence program.
- Custodial parents receiving “register only” payment processing and record-keeping must pay a $3 monthly service fee.
- The CSD may close your case if you fail to communicate or provide requested information.
- To receive the application form by mail, call (800) 252-8014. But remember, mail application takes longer than online or in-person application.
- Parents who have never received TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or state support must pay a $35 annual service fee.
How is paternity established in Texas?
According to Texas child support laws, the biological father does not have legal rights towards the child until he, the court, or CSD establishes paternity.
That tells us there are two ways to establish paternity in Texas, that is, voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or involuntary establishment of paternity.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity/AOP is when a father completes the AOP form at the hospital after childbirth or at local support offices. Whereas involuntary acknowledgment is when the court or CSD orders a paternity test.
Also, when a child is born to a married couple, or 300 days after divorce, death, or separation, then the law assumes that the man is the father.
What to remember:
- If either parent refuses to take a paternity test, the Office of the attorney general may petition the court to order a paternity test.
- Minors can sign the AOP form without parental consent.
- You have 60 days to rescind an AOP by filing a “Rescission of the Acknowledgement Form.”
- If the child’s paternity is in question, or if a DNA test comes out negative, the father may file a petition asking the court to terminate his relationship with the child(ren).
What is child support supposed to cover in Texas?
Texas Child Support Guidelines dictate the amount of child support a parent must pay. However, the courts only apply these guidelines when they serve the best interests of the child. What do I mean?
In the eyes of the court, the child’s interests include medical and educational expenses, daycare expenses, and the child’s basic needs, including shelter, clothes, and food.
In a situation where the child support order puts unnecessary strain on either parents’ financial resources, the judge will deviate. Meaning, he or she will not base the final amount on Texas child support guidelines.
To clarify, Texas Family Code 154.123 lists the following grounds for deviation:
- The changing needs of a growing child.
- The parent’s ability to contribute to raising the child.
- College or higher education expenses.
- Each parents’ financial resources.
How to calculate child support in Texas
Note that in Texas, the courts calculate child support based solely on the paying/non-custodial parent’s income. What that means is, the state’s child support formula does not consider the amount of time you spend with the child or the type of conservatorship you have. A conservator may be the Department of Family and protective services, competent adult, or parent.
Texas Family Code Chapter 154.125. sets the following guidelines for calculating child support:
|Number of children||Obligor’s Net Resources%|
|6+||Not less than the amount for five children|
If you are confused, Ken Paxton, or rather the Attorney General of Texas website has a child support calculator that you may use to estimate your support obligation.
Texas child support calculator
An alternative method is to use the guideline provided in section 154.129 of the Texas Family Code. (see the snippet below).
Texas multiple family adjusted guidelines
What to remember:
- The calculator or worksheet only estimates child support obligation, meaning your court order may be very different.
- Parents can make a child support agreement out of court.
- If the non-custodial parents’ monthly net income is less than $7500, the court will consider the number of children subject to support action.
How to modify child support in Texas
Texas child support guidelines, according to the attorney general, allow parents to request a review or modification on two grounds.
One, the petitioning parent must experience material and substantial change in circumstances. Two, quote “the order was established or modified three years ago,” or “the monthly amount of child support order differs by either (a) 20% or (b) $100 from the amount that would be awarded, according to child support guidelines.”
What does “Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances” mean?
A material and substantial change in circumstances refer to situations where the paying parent is for some reason unable to honor his obligation. It may also mean the paying parent has seen increased income thus capable of paying more.
For example, if your work hours decrease, or if you lose your job, or develop a disability. Then you may petition for a reduction. Whereas, if your income increases and the needs of the child change, the custodial parent can petition for an increase. But remember, the burden of proof is on the petitioning party, meaning, you must show the court a valid reason for the modification.
Here are some grounds for child support modification in Texas:
- The addition of new children into the household.
- A change in the child’s medical insurance cover.
- Change of custody arrangement.
- Involuntary job loss or involuntary underemployment.
How to request a child support order review in Texas
There are two ways to request a support order review in Texas, one is through online modification, and two, you may download, complete, and mail “the Request for Review” MS word form.
What to remember:
- Your child support order can only be changed via in-office negotiation/CSRP (Child Support Review Process) or through a court hearing.
- If CSRP or informal agreement fails, the modification request is forwarded to the courts.
If you need any more information, call (800)252-8014.
What happens if you do not pay child support in Texas?
The Office of the attorney general may use any of the following enforcement tools to collect child support when a parent fails to pay.
- License suspension: through 60 licensing agencies including the DMV, the OAG can suspend the delinquent parent’s professional, driver’s, or business license.
- Passport Denial: through the state department, the OAG may deny or revoke the paying parent’s passport if you owe at least $2500.
- Liens: the OAG might order liens on the payor’s property, retirement funds, personal injury claims, bank accounts, and so on.
- Credit bureau reporting: the OAG may also report the amount of child support you owe to credit bureaus.
Contempt of court charges in Texas
Failure to pay child support may also prompt the judge to find the parent in contempt of court. What to remember here is that contempt of court charges in Texas carry a six-month jail sentence.
And the bad news does not end there.
If the court finds that you “intentionally” or “knowingly” failed to pay child support, you may spend up to two years in a state jail facility, or pay a maximum fine of $10000, because Texas penal code 25.05 says that such a failure is a felony.
What to remember:
- You may prevent enforcement action by honoring your obligation.
- Most support orders in Texas include an automatic Income Withholding Order (IWO).
- Child support arrears will impact your credit rating.
- Incarcerated parents must file an “incarcerated non-custodial parent affidavit of income assets” and show the court that there has been “material and substantial change in financial circumstances.
When does child support end in Texas?
Your child support order will terminate on the child’s 18th birthday. However, if the child has not yet graduated high school, payments may continue until the child’s 19th birthday.
In cases where the parents agreed to contribute to college or university fees, your order will end once the conditions of the agreement are satisfied. Your obligation may also continue beyond 18 if the child is mentally or physically disabled.
How to end child support early in Texas
Minors in Texas may petition the court for emancipation at 16. To qualify, your income must be legal, the child must demonstrate an ability to handle his/her affairs, and you must be living apart from your parents.
The other options are, join the military. Or two, get married.
More Texas Laws