Last Updated on September 28, 2023 by Benson Varghese
When a parent is ordered to pay child support, they often think they get a say in exactly how the money will be spent on the child. This is not the case. In Texas, the custodial parent basically has the discretion to use child support money as he or she sees fit, as long as the child’s basic needs are being met. Many wonder what does child support cover legally?
In this article, our Fort Worth family law attorney explains the basics of child support in Texas. We’ll start by discussing what child support covers and then move on to what it doesn’t, such as medical and dental insurance.
What is child support in Texas?
In Texas, child support is money that a non-custodial parent (or the visitation parent) pays to the custodial parent to help cover the cost of raising their child. Simply stated, if you have the child more often than not, you will likely receive child support. If you spend less time with the child than the other parent, you will likely pay child support.
Most of the time, child support is ordered by a family court judge after a divorce or separation, in which case it is non-voluntary and non-negotiable. Child support is generally paid until the child turns 18 or graduates high school (whichever occurs later).
How much do you have to pay in child support?
The Texas Family Code, Chapter 154, outlines how child support is calculated. It uses a formula, which is based on the non-custodial parent's net monthly income and how many children that in need. Here's the breakdown:
* 1 child: 20 percent of the non-custodial parent's net monthly income
* 2 children: 25 percent of the non-custodial parent's net monthly income
* 3 children: 30 percent of the non-custodial parent's net monthly income
* 4 children: 35 percent of the non-custodial parent's net monthly income
* 5 or more children: 40 percent of the non-custodial parent's net monthly income
It's important to note that a judge can order the non-custodial parent to pay above or below the guidelines. For example, if a child has extraordinary needs (such as a disability or special needs), the court can order more child support than what the guideline dictates. Likewise, the court can order less than the guideline if the non-custodial parent has extenuating financial hardships.
What does child support cover in Texas?
The Texas Family Code does not specify exactly what child support is supposed to cover other than minimum basic needs. This would include:
* Clothing and shoes;
* Housing and Utilities (rent or mortgage payments);
* Education costs, including school supplies, lunch money, etc.
However, nothing says child support cannot be used to cover other things, such as the child's extracurricular activities, vacations, or sports programs. No government agency watches or dictates how child support money is spent. As long as the money is benefitting the child, it is generally not considered a misuse of funds
What does child support not cover?
In Texas, child support does not cover medical or dental support. These are separate obligations. Usually, the parent paying child support also pays for the child's health insurance. So it's probable that the non-custodial parent will pay child support and medical support. However, if the custodial parent provides health insurance, the noncustodial parent may be ordered to pay the other parent for the cost of health insurance coverage ("cash medical support").
Can I specify what I want my child support to cover?
Possibly, if everyone is in agreement and the judge believes it is in the best interest of the child. Some parents put specific provisions in the final divorce decree or child custody order for child support to cover extra expenses such as child care, extracurricular activities, private school, sports programs, college, etc. Orders can be customized to fit the particular needs of the family. This is especially helpful if, for example, extracurricular activities are important to both parents.
What if I don't like how my ex spends my child support?
The worst thing you can do if you disagree with how child support is being spent is to stop paying. You will be in violation of the court's order, which will only create problems for you and make the situation worse.
However, if you have proof that the money is being spent on something other than the child, such as drugs or gambling, then you should contact an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you get a court order to modify the child support or child custody agreement to protect your child if there truly is neglect.
Need help with a Child Support Dispute in Fort Worth?
Disputes over child support are common in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. If you are involved in a child support dispute, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney. An experienced lawyer can review the fact of your case and situation and help you understand your rights and options under Texas law.
The attorneys at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group have more than 30 years of combined experience handling divorce and child custody cases in Tarrant County. Call 817-900-3220 to schedule a consultation