Child Support Terms & References

For an estimate of child support calculated from a single source of income, go to —

https://csapps.oag.texas.gov/monthly-child-support-calculator

**Please note that the calculation that you derive from the calculator may be different from what the Court may order.

How Child Support is Calculated

While it is more complex, the basics to calculating the current amount of child support are found by the following—

  • Calculating the total amount of the Obligor’s income from all sources that is available to child support – which we call “Gross Resources”
  • Subtracting from the Gross Resources certain items, such taxes paid, union dues, and health/dental insurance premium for the child; and then divide by 12 to determine the monthly net resources available – the resulting number we call “Monthly Net Resources.”
  • Applying the Child-Support Guidelines (eg. 20% for one child; 25% for two children, etc.) to the Monthly Net Resources. If the Obligor has other children for whom he/she owes support that are not before the Court, then Adjusted Child-Support Guidelines will be applies (eg. 17.50% if one child before the Court and another child not before the Court).

Definitions/Descriptions

Section 154 of the Texas Family Code establishes the basic framework for court-ordered child support for Texas family law cases. The following definitions and descriptions can help you better understand common child support terms and references as they relate to your case.

Child Support: child support is the financial obligation that an Obligor (the parent who pays support) owes to the Obligee (the parent who receives support) for the support of a child.

Child or Minor: a child/minor is a person under 18 years of age who is not and has not been married or who has not had the disabilities of minority removed for general purposes.  “Child” includes a person over 18 years of age for whom a person may be obligated to pay support.

Obligor / Payor: the Obligor/payor is the person required to make child support payments under the terms of a support order for a child.

Obligee / Payee: Obligee/payee is the person or entity entitled to receive payments of child support, including an agency of this state or of another jurisdiction to which the Court has assigned the person’s right to support.

State Case Registry: the State Case Registry (the Texas State Disbursement Unit, aka “SDU”) is the registry/unit  established and operated by the Title IV-D agency under 42 U.S.C. Section 654a that has responsibility for maintaining records with respect to child support orders in all Title IV-D cases and in all other cases in which a support order is rendered or modified under this title on or after October 1, 1998 [i.e., Office of the Attorney General of Texas]. Thus, all payments including those being withheld by an Obligor’s employer and those paid directly by the Obligor go through the SDU.

Medical Support (a form of child support): medical support is the periodic payment made under an order to cover medical expenses, including health insurance coverage, incurred for the benefit of a child.

Health Insurance for the Child: health insurance is insurance coverage that provides basic health-care services, including usual physician services, office visits, hospitalization, and laboratory, X-ray, and emergency services, that may be provided through a health maintenance organization or other private or public organization other than medical assistance under chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code.

Dental Insurance for the Child: dental insurance is insurance coverage that provides preventive dental care and other dental services, including usual dentist services, office visits, examinations, X-rays, and emergency services, that may be provided through a single service health maintenance organization or other private or public organization.

Health-care Expenses: include, without limitation, medical, surgical, prescription drug, mental health-care services, dental, eye care, ophthalmological, and orthodontic charges but do not include expenses for travel to and from the provider or for nonprescription medication.

Underemployed or Unemployed

If evidence supports that an Obligor is intentionally underemployed (not working to his/her full earning potential), the court may base the child support on the Obligor’s earning potential per Texas Family Code § 154.066.

If the court cannot determine an Obligor’s income because he or she is underemployed, a court can presume that the Obligor is earning federal minimum wage for a 40-hour work week per Texas Family Code § 154.068.

Method of Payment

The court will most likely require the child support be paid by periodic payments (weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, or monthly) as the Obligor is paid by his or her employer.

If payments are required, the court will order the payments to be made through the Texas State Disbursement Unit.  The Texas State Disbursement Unit is a registry that records all payments made by the Obligor, and forwards the payments to the Obligee.  The record helps the court determine exactly how much child support an Obligor has paid, in the event of a disagreement in the future.  Any payments an Obligor makes that do not go through the Texas State Disbursement Unit may not be applied towards your child support obligations.

Withholding Order

The easiest way to guarantee your child support payments are made per your court order is to have the payment withheld from the Obligor’s paycheck through an Employer’s Withholding Order.  A withholding order specifically orders the employer to withhold the portion of the paycheck that covers the child support obligation, and order the employer to forward the payment to the Texas State Disbursement Unit  to be credited toward the child support obligation.

Modification of Child Support

It is not uncommon for either parent’s financial situation to change over time due to life circumstances, including but not limited to, a job change, a change in the economy, a disability, another marriage, additional children by one parent, a major move, etc.  If this occurs, a modification in child support may need to be addressed.  A simple agreement, either verbal or written, is not enough to establish a new child support order to reflect each parent’s ability to pay.  Any modification of child support must go through the Court in a form of a court order.