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What is Child Support and When does it Occur in Texas?

Child support is a court-ordered periodic payment made by parents for the benefit and support of their children. It comes into play following a divorce, the termination of a parent-child relationship, child abandonment, or an otherwise non-existent relationship between a parent and their child. In Texas, the Child Support Division of the Attorney General's Office enforces child support payments and other child support initiatives.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is Texas Child Support?

According to Texas Fam. Code 154.001, child support is a payment made by parents for their child's financial benefit and support. Child support is court-ordered. The amount payable is determined by a number of factors, including annual and monthly gross income, tax payments, and other resources. The non-custodial parent(s) pays child support to the custodial parent, guardian, or caregiver of the child, otherwise known as the "conservator." A child may require financial support if:

  • The parents of the child are divorced
  • Parental rights or child-parent relationship is terminated
  • The child was abandoned
  • The child was conceived as a result of a sexual offense

The duration of child support payments also depends on the circumstances around the need for support. Typical lengths of time are:

  • Until the child's adoption
  • Until the child is 18 or graduates from high school
  • Until the emancipation of the child
  • Until the death of the child
  • Indefinitely, if the child is disabled

Child support payment is typically monthly. However, the court may order that the payment be made in a lump sum, an annuity purchase or yearly payment, a property set aside for the child's support, or any combination of payment methods.

The penalties for not paying child support include wage garnishment, property lien, and up to six months in jail. The Attorney General's Website maintains a list of Child Support Evaders.

What Does Child Support Cover in Texas?

The purpose of child support is to provide for a child's basic needs and expenses. Texas laws do not provide specifications on what child support covers. However, some of the typical expenses covered include:

  • Medical and dental care: this includes health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Education: this includes books, sports equipment, musical instruments, school trips, and school lunches
  • Extra-curricular activities: this includes non-school related activities like summer camp, sports, and after-school programs.
  • Childcare: this includes payments for nannies, daycare, or babysitters
  • Basic needs: this includes food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and some entertainment.

What is the Average Child Support Payment in Texas?

The amount paid in child support depends on several factors, including the income level of the non-custodial parent and the number of children that need support. Sources used in the determination of income are:

  • Salary, including tips, bonuses and overtime payment
  • Rental income
  • Self-employment income
  • Royalties, interests, and dividends
  • Pension or retirement pay
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Alimony
  • Any other receivable income

If the non-custodial parent's net monthly income is not more than $7,500, the court's schedule for the determination of child support is as follows:

  • One child - 20% of net income
  • Two children - 25% of net income
  • Three children - 30% of net income
  • Four children - 35% of net income
  • Five children - 40% of net income
  • Six+ children - No less than the amount for five children

If the parent's net monthly income exceeds $7,500, the schedule will be applied to the part of the income that is less than $7,500. However, the court may order additional amounts to be paid based on the parent's income.

The Texas Attorney General's website has a Monthly Child Support Calculatorthat provides an estimated monthly cost. It is worth noting that the court's order may differ from the estimate.

How do I apply for Child Support in Texas?

Before applying for child support, interested persons may need to follow the Child Support Review Process (CSRP) outlined by the Attorney General's office. Typically, the process takes place at local Child Support Division Offices. One of the required steps in the process may be the establishment of paternity. If the child's paternity is not in question, parents can voluntarily establish the child's paternity by filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP). Texas has AOP-certified entities that assist parents in this process.

Persons interested in applying for child support may submit their applications online through the Child Support Interactive. The Attorney General's website provides a listcontaining information that may be required to apply. Applications may also be submitted by mail. However, applicants must complete an online request for application forms to be sent to them by mail. Requestors may forward completed applications to:

Office of the Attorney General
Child Support Division
P.O. Box 12017
Austin, TX 78711-2017

How do I Get Out of Paying Child Support in Texas?

In Texas, parents seeking any form of modification to their child-support order must file a petition with the court (Texas Fam. Code 156.002). Interested persons may be able to contest court-ordered child support payments if they have valid grounds. Some of the grounds that may be considered are:

  • Paternity: if the applicant can prove that the child does not share their DNA, the court may grant the motion. Swab tests are easy ways to establish paternity, and results are returned in four to six weeks.
  • Custody change: if the non-custodial parent becomes the custodial parent, they will no longer be required to pay child support.
  • Illness: persons who are severely ill or incapacitated may file a motion to end or suspend child support
  • Unemployment: unemployed persons who can prove that despite their best efforts, they have gotten employment may have child support obligations temporarily suspended. However, support may be deducted from unemployment benefits.

What is Back Child Support in Texas?

Back child support refers to payments due or owed by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. This may include all the payments accrued before a child support court order is issued. In Texas, back child support is known as "Retroactive Child Support." In determining the child support amount, the court will consider the defaulting parent's income and the child's needs.

How do I Get Back Child Support Paid in Texas?

According to the Texas Family Code (Texas Fam. Code 154.009), retroactive child support can be ordered if:

  • The custodial parent was not previously ordered to make child support payments
  • A previous court order was terminated due to marriage, remarriage, or separation
  • The parent(s) file a motion for a new court order after separation

In cases of separation, retroactive child support will be dated back to the day the parents separated.

Persons interested in getting back child support in Texas may apply to the Child Support Division of the Attorney General's office. If a court order exists, the custodial parent may file a motion to enforce an existing court order.

Is there a Texas Statutes of Limitation on Child Support?

In Texas, the statutes of limitation on retroactive child support is four years from the child's 18th birthday (Texas Fam. Code 157). Where there is an existing court order, statutes of limitation is ten years after the child's 18th birthday. Alternatively, it is ten years after the obligation to the child support order is terminated by law (Texas Fam. Code 154.131).

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