Child Support is the name given to payments made by one parent to another parent (or to the State of Texas) for the support of their children. The Court must order that child support be paid unless it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that it is not in the best interest of the children.
* GUIDELINE CHILD SUPPORT - Calculated by using a formula written by the state legislature, this is the amount of child support that courts generally order unless the court is convinced another amount would be in the child's best interest.
* OBLIGOR - The person ordered to pay child support.
* OBLIGEE - The person with the right to receive child support payments.
* STATE DISBURSEMENT UNIT - A division of the Attorney General's office that collects child support payments from obligors and sends them to obligees.
Relationship Between Child Support and Visitation
The Texas Family Code makes it very clear that there is no relationship between the obligation to pay child support and the right to visit with your children. This is very important to understand because many parents get this wrong and end up being chastised by a judge over it. If the child lives with you most of the time, you cannot prevent the other parent from visiting with the child just because the other parent is not paying child support as ordered. Likewise, if you are the one paying child support, you cannot withhold payments because the other parent is refusing to let you see your child. They are independent legal rights and obligations.
Making Sure Child Support is Used for the Children
Many obligors resist paying child support because they don't believe the payments are going to be used for the child's benefit. They feel they are paying for the other parent's lifestyle and want to make sure child support is used for the children. The short answer is, you can't do that: The obligor CANNOT control how child support is spent by the obligee. There are some ways to deal with the issue, however. First, offer to make direct payments for the benefit of the child. For example, if the other parent needs $200 per week to pay for daycare, try to put it in the child support order that you will make that payment directly to the daycare. In that way, you now that at least that portion of your child support is being spent for the benefit fo the children. Also, if your child is not being properly cared for by the custodial parent, you can bring a suit to modify and try to become the custodial parent yourself.
How Long is Child Support Payable?
Generally, court-ordered child support must be paid until the child graduates from high school or turns 18, whichever occurs later. However, if your child has special needs, you may be ordered to pay support beyond the child's 18th birthday, particularly if the child would become a ward of the state without your payments. If you don't make your child support payments, the obligee can sue you for payment up until the child turns 24.
Avoiding Child Support
Sometimes, the obligor is not reliable and ordering child support payments from an unreliable person can bring little benefit to the obligee or the children. It can lead to a lifetime of child support enforcement hearings that never end in money being paid. If there is significant community property, the parties can agree to "prepay" child support by giving the obligee a significantly disproportionate share of the assets. If this is done, it should be explained very specifically in the decree of divorce. For example, an obligor who is not likely to hold more than a series of minimum wage jobs would pay about $22,000 in child support for a child who is 10 years old at the time of divorce. The parties could agree to give the obligee an additional $22,000 worth of property or debt relief in exchange for the obligor not being required to pay child support.
Additional resources provided by the author
The Texas Attorney General has a number of publications that explain various aspects of the child support system. Also, the Texas Young Lawyers Association provides helpful publications in the area of family law, although they do not focus on child support. I have provided links below to their respective web sites.
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