Five things you should know about child support in Texas
It’s less “Five Things You Should Know About Child Support in Texas” than “Five Things You Think You Know About Child Support in Texas That are Wrong Wrong Wrong”.
“Since overtime and bonuses are not guaranteed, they are not counted for calculating child support.” WRONG. §154.062(b)(1), Texas Family Code, specifically includes overtime pay and bonuses, and this will be true even after that section changes September 1, 2018. Tips, retirement, pensions, self employment income, and trust income are also included.
“If I don’t see the kids – or if my ex forbids my visitation – I don’t have to pay child support.” WRONG. Even though studies have shown that compliance with support and visitation orders are practically and factually linked and proportional, even though common sense and that community sense of fairness and equity would support this position, the law is 180 degrees away. Take a look at your Decree of Order, and it is nearly certain to tell you, in bold or all capitals or underline or some combination (or, I’m certain, as soon as the technology becomes available, in flashing neon colors with Dolby sound) that failure to pay child support does not excuse denying visitation and visitation denial does not excuse the obligation to pay child support.
“With one kid, it’s 20% of my take home.” DOUBLE WRONG. This one actually has two errors. Your employer does not get ordered to recalculate your child support withholding with each paycheck; the Court orders a specific amount per month (usually payable pro rata based on your pay period, so half is taken out each paycheck if you are paid twice per month, 46.15385% if paid every two weeks, etc.) and that amount does not change regardless of fluctuations in your pay (gross or net). And the percentage is not applied to your actual net but rather to your net resources, your gross run through the tax treatment of a hypothetical taxpayer represented by a chart annually recalculated and published by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas.
“If I quit my job – or flip burgers with my PhD – I will be ordered to pay little or no child support.” DANGEROUSLY WRONG. If the judge decides you are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the Court can set your child support based on what s/he thinks you should be making. And supply you three hots and a cot if you fail to perform.
“I will give the money direct to me kid, not to my ex.” YOU COULD DO THAT, BUT YOU’LL BE SORRY. Don’t misunderstand: you are free to give your child all the money you want. It just doesn’t get credited against your child support obligation unless you pay in the manner ordered (usually through the State Disbursement Unit). I once had an obligor try to get credit against child support arrears by presenting a check made payable to the child and with “Happy Birthday” in the memo slot. Didn’t work.