Welcome to another edition of Bouschor Family Law Radio. Today we’re talking about child support, and there are a lot of questions out there around child support, particularly for someone who’s facing the reality of divorce for the first time. What should someone know about child support if they’re realizing that they’re about to get a divorce?
David: Well I think the biggest thing is, the question is not only what is child support, but what does it take to support your child? Because the Texas Family code has a calculation for determining a child’s support. However, there are a lot of exceptions to that such as if you have a child with special needs or if you have a child that is involved in expensive extra-curricular activities. When you get into the issues such as extracurricular activities, select sports, or things like that, that are actually for your child, most people would consider those to be child support, even though they are are not defined specifically as child support in the Texas Family Code. So the first question is what does it take to support your child?
Tim: And in the eyes of the State of Texas, what does that mean? What does that look like if we’re talking about a typical child, not one with necessarily special needs–how is that determined as to what child support really needs to go towards?
David: Well, a typical child support order, as defined by the Family Code, is going to be calculated through the obligor’s income. There is a definition of income, and there would be a certain percentage that is then put aside for child support after deductions. What it is to be used for is basically the support of the child. It goes into: food, housing, clothes, many things. However, when child support is granted to the obligee, the obligor does not have the ability to direct exactly how the child support is used. So in a way, the person paying the child support has to just trust that the person who is receiving the child support is going to spend it on the child.
Tim: And sometimes that can be a frustration for the person paying the child support?
David: It is often a frustration. And the legislature, which meets bi-yearly, has often had bills that have looked at having the person who is receiving the child support do some sort of an accounting. And for every time that has been put up to be passed by the legislature, it has never passed.
Tim: Now for that person who might be paying child support, there is an important reminder about why they should not just pay it, but feel good about paying child support.
David: Well, if you really look at the amount of child support that most people pay, it is probably not half of what it costs to raise a child. But the money that is being used, and given to the obligee is really when you think about it, being put into a big pot, and the obligee is probably able to provide a better and safer car, better and safer housing, and better clothes, all of which benefit the child because that income is available for the child.
Tim: From the person who is going to be receiving the child support’s standpoint, and they’re worried whether or not they will have enough to support that child, what do they need to know from their end about how the calculation is being put in place that will help them?
David: Well as far as a straight calculation, they need to understand or be able to help their attorney understand, what the obligor’s income is. And the definition of income is not only just what they make at their job. It could be interest income, dividend income, lots of different types of income. The next thing, especially if they have a child as previously mentioned that has certain special needs or is in certain expensive extracurricular activities, they need to understand how that is affecting the child and whether they think it is in the best interest of the child that they stay in these events. Those are the type of things that you can either negotiate with the other side or possibly get a judge to agree to.
Tim: Now once child support is in place, is it possible for either side to change what those monthly payments are?
David: Child support is always modifiable. If you are going to modify child support you obviously can’t do it on a monthly basis, but whenever there has been a major change in the obligor’s life, the obligee’s life or the child’s life, you can go back and either reduce or get more child support. There are a lot of situations out there where someone will have a very high paying job and they lose it. They, unfortunately, need to go hire an attorney and get their child support reduced proportionately to what they are now currently making so that they don’t get behind. The inverse is also true; when they get a new job and they get a big raise, that last thing most obligors want to do is to get their child support raised. But honestly, the child should benefit from the increased income of both parents. and that should be what happens too.
Tim: And the bottom line on all of this, is it is your child. And if you love your child, you want your child to be taken care of.
Tim: This has been another edition of Bouschor Family Law Radio, with David S. Bouschor, II.