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Texas Family Code § 154 establishes the basic framework for court-ordered child support for Texas family law cases.

Who Pays Child Support?

All parents have a legal duty to support their children, providing such necessities as food, clothing, shelter, and the like; however, it is typically the non-custodial parent (the Obligor) that is ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent (the Obligee).  The Obligee is typically a custodial parent, a caregiver, a guardian, or the state.  However, the court may order both parents to support a child in the manner specified by the order.

Click here to better understand common child support terms and references as they relate to your case.


How is child support determined?

The amount of child support paid by an Obligor to an Obligee can be an amount based on an agreement between the parties or as ordered by the court per Texas Family Code § 154.  The amount of child support ordered should be in the child’s best interest.  Parties are allowed to make written agreements for child support which may vary from the child support guidelines if the court finds the agreement to be in the child’s best interest. However, if the court finds the agreement is not in the child’s best interest, the court may ask the parties to submit a revised agreement or the court may render its own child support order per Texas Family Code § 154.124.

The legislature has established guidelines to help a judge determine child support per Texas Family Code § 154.125.  These guidelines are presumed to be in the child’s best interest.  The guidelines give the court a percentage to apply to a parent’s net resources.  For a parent who has no other children outside the current court proceedings, the percentage to be applied is as follows:

20% for 1 child;
25% for 2 children;
30% for 3 children;
35% for 4 children;
40% for 5 children;
Not less than 40% for 6+ children.

To justify child support in excess of the percentage guidelines, evidence of a child’s special needs is required.  See Additional Factors for the Court to Consider below.

Calculating Guideline Child Support

Guideline child support is based on all the Obligor’s financial resources: wages and salary, commissions and overtime, interest income, rental income, income from retirement, trusts, annuities, unemployment benefits, and any other income received by the Obligor.  A spouse’s income is not included in the Obligor’s resources.

The court can require parties to provide information about their income and resources.  Parties should be prepared to provide the court the past two year’s income tax returns, a financial statement, and current pay stubs.

To calculate guideline child support, obtain Obligor’s gross monthly income.  After the average monthly gross income is determined, certain deductions are taken.  These deductions include:

  • social security taxes
  • federal income taxes (based on a single person, claiming one exemption)
  • state income taxes (if they apply, Texas has no state income taxes)
  • union dues; and
  • expenses for the child’s health insurance coverage

Deductions do not include the needs of an Obligor’s spouse or stepchildren.

Next, apply the percentage guidelines to the Obligor’s average monthly net income.  If the Obligor’s average monthly net income is more than $9,200, then the guidelines only apply to the first $9,200.  In cases where the Obligor, or parent who is obligated to pay child support, has other children to support, the percentages are slightly lower than the percentages stated above.  The court may order additional child support, as needed, depending on the child’s needs.

*Beginning September 1, 2021, there are new guidelines for calculating child support when obligors have limited resources. 

Additional Factors for the Court to Consider

Per Texas Family Code 154.123, a court may consider other factors to determine if applying the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.  Those factors include:

  • the child’s age and needs;
  • the parent’s ability to contribute to the child’s support;
  • any financial resources available for the child support;
  • the amount of access time of possession of and access to a child;
  • the amount of the Obligee’s (person receiving child support) net resources and earning potential;
  • child care expenses;
  • whether either party has managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of another child;
  • the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or received by a party;
  • the child’s educational expenses beyond secondary school;
  • whether the obligor or obligee has employee benefits such as housing or a company car;
  • the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal for personal services of the parties;
  • health insurance and uninsured medical expenses for the child;
  • extraordinary educational, healthcare, or other expenses of the parties or child;
  • travel expenses incurred to exercise possession;
  • the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of the child;
  • positive or negative cash flow from real or personal property, including assets like businesses or investments;
  • debts or debt service assumed b either party; and
  • any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.

If a court order for child support is not based on the statutory guidelines, it must include special findings that help explain the reason why it varies from the guidelines.

You may file a child support modification if there has been a material change in circumstances for any person impacted by the child support order (i.e., Obligor, Obligee, child) or at least three years have passed since the child support order was established and the difference in monthly support would be affected by at least 20 percent or $100.  You may request a review of a child support order every three years.  You may also file a child support modification on your own or through an attorney.

The Office of the Attorney General provides a Child Support Program for families needing assistance establishing, modifying, and collecting and enforcing child support orders. Only the court can change a child support order; however, the Attorney General’s office can assist you with the process.

FAQ... What is the “Best Interest of the Child”?