Child support calculations are one of those areas that people end up very confused about, leading to a wide variety of various calculators and tools for the purpose of determining what the guideline amount of child support should be set by the court. For the vast majority of cases, child support is calculated strictly according to this formula, and effectively is just a math equation to determine the amount owed each month.
However, there are some rare occasions where the guideline amount of child support is not an appropriate amount, and in those situations the court does some some authority to deviate from traditional child support guidelines. It is important to be aware of all the different factors the court uses in determining the amount of child support owed as the “obligor.” Although the amount of child support based on the statutory percentage applied to an obligor’s monthly net resources is a presumption, the court has discretion to vary from the Texas statutory guidelines, upwards or downwards, based on relevant factors. These factors are known as “the best interest of the child factors” and the court’s discretion in deviation from the statutory guidelines is broad and considers the totality of the circumstances such as:
A Few Texas Child Support Guideline Deviation Factors:
- The age and needs of the child;
- The child’s educational expenses beyond secondary school;
- Payment of health insurance or uninsured medical expenses for the child;
- Extraordinary educational, healthcare or other expenses of the parents or the child
- Whether either parent has managing conservatorship or possession of another child;
- Each party’s period of possession of and access to the child;
- Travel costs for exercising possession of and access to the child;
- Child care expenses;
- Each parent’s respective ability to contribute to the child’s support;
- Debts assumed by either parent;
- The net resources of the obligee (the parent receiving child support); or
- The amount of alimony or spousal maintenance paid or received by a parent.
Some of these areas are vague enough to apply to a wide variety of circumstances, however, in my experience it is not particularly common that a judge will deviate from guideline child support and it is important to bring as much evidence as possible to show why the circumstances warrant a different child support amount (either higher or lower), and also to base as much of that evidence as possible on what is in the best interest of the child. Many of my clients tend to want to focus primarily on concepts regarding the fairness to one of the parents, however, that is not really something that the court is considering when making these determinations. Ultimately, the court tries to determine what outcome they believe is in the best interest of the child, so it is important to provide evidence as to why shifting around the child support can achieve that end.
In general, child support in Texas is a numbers game, and the burden of proof lies heavily on the party seeking the “non-standard” amount. That said, the courts do have somewhat broad authority in this area, and if the judge takes a particular dislike to you or your ex-spouse, it can often prompt them to consider modifications that they may not otherwise grant. The more sympathetic as a whole a parent is, the more likely the judge will side with that parent in other arenas too, such as child support. Usually the party who the court believes has the best interest of the child most at heart tends to be the most advantaged in child support and custody matters, so re-framing your arguments to touch on that can go a long way.
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