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Child Support Guideline Deviation: Not Enough or Too Much?

 Posted on December 07, 2015 in Child Support

Texas family law attorney, Texas divorce laywer, Texas child support attorney,The child support guideline amounts in Section 154 are presumed to be reasonable. But consider the following situations:

  • The obligor parent is a server at a local restaurant; the obligee parent is an engineer at a large technology company;
  • Father is now financially responsible for three stepchildren after a subsequent remarriage;
  • Mother must travel to another state to see the children because Father relocated with the children;
  • The family includes two preschool children that are in daycare and two school-age children that require after school care; or
  • Because of a child's pre-existing medical condition, insurance is expensive and refuses to cover certain treatments.

The cookie-cutter guidelines might be considered "unjust or inappropriate" under Section 154.123 in any of these situations.

The underlying issue is that Texas is one of only nine percentage-of-income states that determine the amount of support merely from the obligor's income and the number of children before the court. While this formula does encourage predictable and regular results, a straight percentage-of-income calculation leaves no room to account for the unique circumstances of each family. Thus, there is the escape clause in Section 154.123.

When to Deviate

A party that wants to change the guideline amount in a complex custody case must go through a two-step process. First, there must be evidence in the record that the guidelines are "unjust or inappropriate" under the circumstances. Second, the party must establish an amount that is reasonable. The other party has the opportunity to contest both the need to deviate and the amount requested.

Subsection (b) allows the judge to consider "all relevant factors" to set the amount of support, after determining that the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. These factors include the:

  • Needs and ages of the children;
  • Amount of possession and access to the children;
  • Financial means of both parents, including imputed income, fringe benefits like company cars, and income from property awarded in the divorce decree;
  • Presence or absence of stepchildren;
  • Child care expenses;
  • Post-secondary educational expenses;
  • Amount of maintenance paid or received;
  • Health insurance premiums and unreimbursed medical expenses required;
  • Travel expenses paid; and
  • Debts assumed by either party.

Some of these factors, like the presence of stepchildren, are only relevant in a modification action.

If custodial parents fear that guideline support would not be enough, or obligors feel that too much is being asked, there are legal options. For a confidential consultation in this area, contact an aggressive family law attorney in Georgetown. Mr. Powers is a Board Certified family law expert.



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