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How Texas judges calculate child support payments

Texas parents who are seeking child support or who may be required to pay child support often have questions about how judges calculate the appropriate amount of support. Though judges will often order support payments based on the children's needs or other factors, most child support orders are based upon the assets and income of the person who will pay support.

Judges consider all of the assets of the person required to pay support, who may be referred to as the obligor. Along with the obligor's regular wages and salary, judges must factor in income from rental properties, interests, overtime pay, commissions and unemployment benefits. In addition, income from annuities, trusts or retirement is considered in calculating support payments.

All of these components are figured into the obligor's average monthly income. Judges will ask for information about the obligor's income and assets, usually in the form of tax returns from the prior two years, current pay stubs and financial statements. Certain taxes and expenses may be deducted from the average monthly income. These may include federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, union dues and children's health insurance coverage. Spouses' or stepchildren's needs are not deducted from the average monthly income. These guidelines generally only apply to the first $7,500 of the obligor's average monthly income.

Though basing the child support order on a percentage of the obligor's monthly income is meant to ensure support payments are fair and manageable, many parents struggle to keep up with child support payments because of their other monthly expenses. Family law attorneys may be able to seek child support order modifications on behalf of their clients, particularly if their client lost their job or part of their monthly income.

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