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The basics of Texas child support

Divorcing Texas couples with minor children will have to deal with the issue of child support. Getting a quick overview of some basic concepts can help you better understand what to expect.

Similar to many other states, Texas law approaches issues relating to children from the standpoint of the best interests of the child. Thus, parents may not waive or agree to amounts below the state's guidelines. While they are free to compromise on their own rights, they may not do so on behalf of the child. They may, however, agree to amounts higher than those the guidelines would produce.

Who pays child support

In most cases, the parent with less parenting time pays support to the parent with whom the child primarily lives, as generally that person would cover the bulk of living expenses for the child.

How long do payments last

Most often, a parent pays child support until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever comes later. This is the age until which parents in Texas have a legal obligation to support their children, whether or not they are divorced. Support may cease earlier if the child becomes emancipated through marrying.

Children with disabilities

If the court finds the child to be mentally or physically disabled to a sufficient degree, the court may mandate indefinite support. This support would cease if the disability no longer exists.

How courts apply the guidelines

Courts use the state's child support guidelines as a baseline for figuring out support amounts. The guidelines factor in the support payer's net monthly income and the number of children.

In some cases where the net monthly income is over $7,500, the court may consider the recipient parent's request for an amount exceeding that produced by the guidelines. This generally happens when the recipient shows the child has additional needs such as medical costs, extracurriculars or educational expenses. Texas courts may depart from these guidelines if they consider it necessary and in the best interests of the child. 

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