All issues of child support are determined in a proceeding called a “suit affecting the parent-child relationship” (SAPCR). A SAPCR is joined with any divorce suit in which there are minor children of the marriage. A parent may be ordered to pay child support even if the parent is not appointed conservator.

The most common type of child support order is one that requires the parent who is not the managing conservator to pay the managing conservator a sum of money on a periodic basis (typically monthly). The parent required to pay child support is called the “obligor.” However, even where the parents have been appointed joint managing conservators, one parent may be required to pay child support to the other parent. The duty to pay child support exists until: the child is 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later; the child dies; the child’s disabilities of minority are removed; the child marries; or the parent-child relationship between a parent and his or her child is terminated pursuant to a court order.

The amount of child support is based on the net resources of the parent obligated to pay support. Under the Family Code, net resources include the following:

  • All wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services.
  • Self-employment income.
  • Interest, including interest income from notes.
  • Dividends, and royalty income.
  • Net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments).
  • Capital gains.
  • Severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, and disability and workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Gifts and prizes.
  • Spousal support.
  • All other income actually being received.

The following are deducted from resources to determine the net resources available for child support: Social Security taxes; federal income tax withholding; state income tax; union dues; and expenses for the cost of health insurance or cash medical support for the obligor’s child.

If the obligor’s monthly net resources are $7,500 or less, there is a presumption that the amount of the child support order should be 20 percent of the obligor’s net resources for the support of one child; 25 percent for the support of two children; 30 percent for the support of three children; and 35 percent for the support of four children. If the obligor’s net monthly resources are more than $7,500, there is a presumption that those percentages should be applied to the first $7,500 of net monthly resources, and the court may order additional amounts of child support as appropriate, depending on the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child.

A parent may be found criminally liable for intentionally or knowingly failing to support a child who is younger than 18 years of age or the subject of a court order requiring the parent to pay child support.

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