Your Houston Child Support Case: The Basics
Your relationship went from over the moon to “Houston, we have a problem.” Now if only you had NASA’s flight control to guide you through the child support process. Doing it on your own can be as complicated as navigating the winding waterways of Bayou City, so here are a few basic on how of Houston child support laws work.
What Is Child Support?
After parents get a divorce or legal separation, a court may order one parent, usually the one without custody, to pay the custodial parent child support to provide for the care and wellbeing of shared minor children. In Houston, a noncustodial parent could pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18. The court can order support to continue until a child graduates from high school or an indefinite period, if the child is mentally or physically disabled. On the other hand, child support could end if your child marries, enlists in the military, or becomes legally emancipated. As part of a divorce settlement, a paying parent can agree to continue supporting a child through college, or both parents can agree to share college expenses.
In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for the establishment and enforcement of child support. The OAG represents the state and can be your resource for:
- locating absent parents;
- establishing paternity;
- creating, enforcing, and modifying child support orders; and
- collecting and distributing child support.
How Can I File For Child Support?
You can file your application for child support with the Attorney General’s office or you can apply online. Be aware that AOG attorneys represent the State of Texas in providing child support services and can not represent either parent in a child support case. If applicable, you may be required to file copies of:
- A divorce decree, separation agreement, or court order for child support;
- An acknowledgment of paternity, if one has been signed;
- A birth certificate for each child involved;
- All financial documents reflecting income and assets (like paycheck stubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc.); and/or
- Any evidence of child support payment history.
The Office of the Attorney General operates several Child Support Division offices in the Houston area. To find the nearest office, you can visit their website or call (800) 252-8014.
How Much Can I Get in Child Support?
Child support in Houston is based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income and depends on the number of children involved. The normal calculation looks like this:
- 1 child receives 20% of the noncustodial parent’s net resources;
- 2 children receive 25%;
- 3 children receive 30%;
- 4 children receive 35%;
- 5 children receive 40%; and
- 6+ children receive no less than the amount for 5 children.
However, the calculation may be complex, depending on the noncustodial parent’s income. The Child Support Division provides a guideline calculator for estimating your share and what you might receive in child support.
Can I Change a Child Support Order?
Once a court issues a child support order, only the court can modify the order. Grounds for modification can include a material and substantial change in your circumstances or your child’s situation, if three years have since your last child support order, or the monthly payment would change by either 20 percent or $100 from the child support guidelines. You may request a review of the child support order by contacting the Office of the Attorney General.
What If My Ex Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
If your ex does not pay child support, he or she may be subject to several enforcement measures to collect regular and past-due payments, including:
- Having court-ordered child support deducted his or her paycheck through wage withholding;
- Having federal income tax refund checks intercepted;
- Having liens filed against his or her property or other assets;
- Having his or her driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses suspended;
- Having a lawsuit filed against him or her asking the court to enforce its order; and/or
- Having a judge sentence him or her parent to jail time.
Parents should be aware, however, that child support and visitation rights are separate issues. A court normally determines both and will usually order the noncustodial parent to pay child support and the custodial parent to make the child available for visits. Even if your ex cannot or will not pay child support, you still have a duty to obey a court order for visitation.
Figuring out child support, especially with an ex involved, can be a complicated process. You may find that consulting with an attorney could make the process easier. You can schedule a consultation with an experienced child support attorney or look for free legal aid in Houston. You can also access additional information on this topic at FindLaw’s child support law section.
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