One of the most complicated aspects of a divorce is determining child custody and child support. Assets, while difficult to divide, are tangible and ultimately replaceable. Children, however, can often be a major source of contention during divorce proceedings. Regardless of whether your divorce is amicable or not, child support payments are a common feature of most divorce settlements.
Child support and child custody are two completely different things. While custody simply determines who has legal authority over your children and when said authority applies, support payments are meant to benefit the children when not in your custody. As a result, joint custody arrangements may have an impact on how much child support you have to pay. We’ll take a closer look at the variables involved to help you plan your divorce settlement.
Do You Have to Pay Child Support in Joint Child Custody Situations?
Understanding Child Support
In Texas, child support is understood as a way to provide children with the financial support needed to meet their needs. The state’s attorney general has a child support division in charge of overseeing enforcement and providing support for families seeking child support. While there are many scenarios where child support can be awarded, we’re going to focus on cases where joint custody has been established, either by mutual agreement or a divorce decree from a judge.
The court’s goal is to ensure that the child is given the resources they need to thrive, not just survive. There are state guidelines that are used to determine the amount you will need to pay for child support; however, it’s important to note that judges have the freedom to make the final determination, and guidelines are just that: guidelines. You should retain the services of an expert lawyer in the field to ensure the fairest outcome for everyone involved.
Who Will Pay Child Support?
In most cases, the payer is the person who has the least custody. For example, if you and your spouse agree that one of you will have custody only on weekends, while the other will cover Monday through Friday, then logically the weekend parent must compensate for their relative lack of daily support.
How Is the Amount of Child Support Determined?
Texas guidelines indicate that child support should be 20% of the payer’s net income for a single child. The guidelines add 5% per additional child. By law, if you earn more than $9,200 a month, the excess over $9,200 will not be factored into the calculations. This means that a single child would require a maximum support payment of $1,840 monthly.
There are other variables to consider. First, if you provide support in other forms, you can reduce your monthly support bill. For example, if you provide health insurance for your child despite not having full custody, the amount paid can be deducted from your dues. Additionally, if you support other children fully, the court is more likely to reduce your support payments. Finally, when joint custody is involved, this can reduce your support liability.
Does Joint Custody Change Child Support Requirements?
The short answer is that yes, joint custody does change your child support requirements. It helps to understand how Texas law sees child custody. Legally speaking, custody isn’t the proper term. Texas refers to custody arrangements as a conservatorship. In most cases, one parent will be named the primary conservator or caregiver, and this person will likely be the recipient of child support payments. The other parent will have visitation rights.
What If We Have a 50-50 Custody Arrangement?
Even when custody is split evenly, you may still have to make some payments for child support. Remember that income is a factor, so if your income is higher than that of your spouse, you may be required to make payments.
Although this may seem somewhat unfair to you, keep in mind that the court is trying to do what is fair for the child. When you were married, you held your finances jointly. Your child benefited from your combined income. A separation often means greater individual expense for both parties (most people save money by living with someone and have more expenses if they’re on their own), so the lower-income spouse may struggle to care for your children without support.
How Will Child Support Be Decided in a Divorce?
Texas law strongly encourages mediation and negotiation, with a trial in court being the last resort. Well over 90% of divorce cases are resolved without a trial in Texas. However, the court will finalize whatever agreement has been made through discussion or mediation. We strongly encourage couples to try and settle their differences together to reach a fair agreement.
If an agreement is reached, you may file for what is known as an “uncontested divorce.” Your divorce lawyer and your partner’s lawyer will put your agreement in writing, which will include your children’s custody arrangements and support payments. If you disagree with the terms and cannot reach an agreement, then you will need to file for a contested divorce.
Contested Divorces and Child Support
In a contested divorce, the party contesting the agreement will need to explain the specific points they disagree with and propose an alternative course of action. Your spouse will have the opportunity to accept an amended agreement. If your case still cannot be settled, then a contested divorce will usually be sent to mediation. A mediator’s decision is almost always upheld by the court.
Challenging the results of mediation is a time-consuming and legally complicated affair. You will need to demonstrate that the mediator showed some degree of bias or applied the law or guidelines unfairly. If your case is admitted to court, then you will proceed to have a trial which will result in a final divorce decree. At this point, the court’s decision is binding. Failure to comply can result in garnished wages.
How to Get a Fair Child Support Decision
There are many variables to consider when it comes to handling child support cases. We know that managing all of these details can be an insurmountable task for many, especially considering the stress that divorce can place on a family. At Skillern Firm, we strive to reach a smooth settlement that satisfies everyone involved. And should the situation come to a courtroom, we’ll be ready to defend your interests.
You need a quality divorce lawyer with experience in child support and custody law. Call Skillern Firm in Houston today. We have helped many families to reach a peaceful settlement, and can do the same for you.