When going through divorce as a parent, or separating as an unmarried parent, among the legal issues you need to deal with is the financial support of your children. Texas family law provides that each parent has a legal obligation to provide for their children through child support and, under Texas law, the amount of child support is calculated by using a percentage of the non- custodial parent’s income.

Child support, like all other family law issues, can be resolved through negotiations, mediation or use of the courts. Our child support lawyer has expertise and experience in dealing with simple as well as complex child support issues and can help you find the solution that is best suited for your family. Below is a brief explanation of the child support process as well as some issues that may require special attention.

Percentage of Income as Child Support

Texas law has tried to make child support a simple issue. The court will generally order child support as a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income -- 20 percent for one child, 25 percent for two children and so forth, up to 50% of the parent’s net income. Additionally, if a proper request is made, extra child support may be ordered to cover the child’s health care costs, education and daycare expenses. But in some cases, the challenge will be in establishing the correct income for the non-custodial parent.Dallas Texas Child Support Lawyer | Child Support Attorney | Child Support Law Firm

Actual and Appropriate Income for Purposes of Child Support Calculation

The non-custodial parent’s income used to calculate child support can be from all sources including wages, bonuses, tips, interest, social security benefits, annuities, dividends, severance pay, unemployment benefits, etc.

Determining the actual income will be relatively easy when a person is a W-2 wage earner since their income will be well-documented. But what if the person is self-employed? How will you determine their actual income? What about personal expenses that are written off through the business for tax purposes, but which reduce the parent’s income? What if they are underpaying themselves and maintaining cash reserves in the business until support is set?

If they don’t own a business, what if the person is underemployed, meaning that they work at a job that is below their full capability and they don’t earn as much as they could? The burden will be on you to seek out this information and then to present the appropriate evidence of your spouses’ earning capacity.

Self-Employment Income

According to Texas law, income available for child support includes self-employment, rent, royalties, and profits distributions from a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation. The net income, which is revenue minus ordinary and necessary business expenses, must be scrutinized to make sure personal expenses have not been improperly run through the business, thereby reducing the income available for support. Also, it’s possible that certain expense reimbursements or in-kind payments (e.g., use of a company car, free housing, reimbursed meals, etc.) should be added back and counted as income if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses.

Ultimately, it will be up to you and your child support attorney to discover such discrepancies. The Ashmore Law Firm regularly works with qualified forensic accountants to analyze the business documents and establish a higher income for the responsible parent.

Highest Earning Capacity

In certain situations, a person may work below their capabilities and earn less than their potential. They may either be unemployed, or intentionally or unintentionally underemployed compared to their earning capacity. In either case, if proper arguments and the correct evidence is presented, the court may impute a higher income to that person for child support calculation purposes. Even if a parent intentionally quits a job, the court may proceed with imputing income at their highest earning capacity.

In determining whether a parent is underemployed or unemployed, admissible and credible evidence will need to be submitted as to the parent’s:

  • Ability to work
  • Previous employment experience
  • Previous earning level
  • Employment skills and education

The Ashmore Law Firm has extensive experience working with vocational evaluators and other financial experts to ensure that the maximum income allowed is used for child support purposes.

Modifying a child support order Finally, once agreed to or ordered by the court, child support orders may be modifiable based on evidence of substantial change in circumstances including:

  • Changes in the non-custodial parent’s income
  • Changes in the child’s need for medical insurance coverage
  • Changes in the parenting plan
  • The noncustodial parent becoming financially responsible for more children.

The child support order may also be eligible for modification if it has been at least three years since the order was originally entered. The changed amount must differ by at least 20 percent in order for it to be considered for modifications. Such modifications can be by agreement or by court order, but to be enforceable, care must be taken that the modification is in proper written format and signed by all parties including the judge.

Do not underestimate the importance of properly analyzing the child support situation. Whether you may be able to reach agreement or if a judge will need to decide the situation, our child support law firm can help you evaluate and then either negotiate a settlement, or, if settlement is not possible, represent your interest in court proceedings to get the best possible outcome.

Are You in Need of an Experienced Child Support Lawyer in the Dallas, Texas Area?

If you need a caring, experienced child support lawyer please contact us online or call our Dallas office directly at 214-559-7202 to schedule a consultation. 

Hamid Naraghi
With over 25 years of experience, Hamid helps clients with complex Family Law cases in the Dallas, TX area.