Child Support in Texas | Texas Law Help (2023)

What is child support?

Child support is money a parent pays to help with the cost of raising a child. This includes costs like food, housing, clothing, school supplies, daycare, and activities.

A court can order one parent to pay child support to the other parent. The obligation to pay child support begins when the judge signs an order.

A court can sometimes also order a parent to pay retroactive or “back” child support. Texas law expects both parents to provide financial support for their child, even without a court order. A court could order a parent to pay back child support if:

  • They do not live with the child; and

  • They have not helped support the child financially.

Who pays child support? Who receives it?

In most custody arrangements, a child lives with one parent most of the time. This is the “custodial” parent. The “non-custodial” parent has visitation rights on a regular basis.

The non-custodial parent (the “obligor”) has the obligation to make child support payments. The custodial parent (the “obligee”) has the right to receive these payments.

How can I get child support?

A court can order child support as part of the following legal proceedings:

  • Divorce;

  • Child custody case, also known as a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR);

  • Paternity case;

  • Family violence protective order case; or

  • Modification case, if a court order affecting the child is already in place.

If you need help with a family violence protective order, you can call the National Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). They can refer you to help in your community. You can also get information about getting help from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on this website, which has a feature that lets you browse safely.

You can hire a private attorney to help you get a child support order. An attorney can advise you about your legal rights and advocate for you in court. For more information on hiring an attorney, please see our page on How to Select a Lawyer.

You can also contact the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG will not represent you the way a lawyer would, but they can go to court to get an order for child support, custody, and visitation. You can contact the OAG at (800) 255-8014 or through their website. has toolkits that can help you get a child support order yourself. These forms and instructions work best for uncontested cases, such as when you and the other parent can agree on child support. If your case is contested, it is best to hire a lawyer or contact the OAG Child Support Division.

Guides are available for people in the following situations:

  • You are married to the other parent and are getting divorced: I need a divorce. We have minor children.

  • You and the other parent are not married, and you have signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity for the child: I need a SAPCR (custody) order. I am the child’s parent.

  • You and the other parent are not married, and you have not signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity for the child: I need a paternity order.

  • You are not the child’s parent, and there are no orders for child support in place already: I need a SAPCR (custody) order. I am not the child’s parent.

  • A child support order is already in place: I need to change a custody, visitation or support order.

If you need help choosing the correct toolkit, use Ask a Question to chat with a law student or lawyer online.

How long does child support last?

Child support lasts until whichever happens later:

  • The child turns 18; or

  • The child graduates from high school.

If your child has a disability, child support can continue for as long as the child needs it.

If you owe back child support, you must continue to make payments until you have paid that amount in full.

How is child support calculated?

Texas law sets guidelines for the amount of child support based on the number of minor children and the obligor’s “net resources.”

How is child support calculated?

Texas law sets guidelines for the amount of child support based on the number of minor children and the obligor’s “net resources.”

What are “net resources”?

An obligor’s “net resources” consist of most of their sources income, including the following:

  • Employment income, such as wages, salary, tips, commissions, and bonuses;

  • Income from investments, such as interest or royalties;

  • Self-employment income (including "gig economy" work such as driving for ride-hailing app);

  • Retirement benefits;

  • Most Social Security benefits;

  • VA disability benefits;

  • Unemployment benefits; and

  • Workers’ compensation benefits.

If an obligor receives child support from someone else in another case, that counts as part of their net resources. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a type of Social Security benefit that does not count towards net resources.

When calculating the obligor’s net resources, you can subtract certain expenses from your employment income:

  • Social Security and Medicare taxes;

  • Income tax for a single person;

  • The cost of health insurance, dental insurance, or medical support for the child, if the obligor is providing it;

  • Union dues; and

  • Certain types of retirement contributions.

What if no income information is available?

Sometimes, information about an obligor’s income is not available. The court can consider other information in that situation to estimate their income. A judge can look at the prevailing wage in the obligor’s area, as well as the availability of jobs. They can also consider information about the obligator like the following:

  • Age;

  • Living situation;

  • Amount of assets that the obligor owns;

  • Education;

  • Work history;

  • Criminal history;

  • Health; and

  • Factors that could affect the obligor’s ability to find a job.

What are the child support guidelines?

Once you have determined the obligor’s net monthly resources, you can calculate child support. The guidelines set child support at the following percentages of net resources:

  • 1 child: 20%

  • 2 children: 25%

  • 3 children: 30%

  • 4 children: 35%

  • 5 children: 40%

  • 6 or more children: at least 40%

The guidelines apply to all of an obligor’s net resources up to $8,550 per month. A judge can order additional child support based on the parents’ income and the child’s needs.

Different guidelines apply for obligors whose total net resources are less than $1,000 per month. See Child Support and Lower Incomes for more information.

What if the noncustodial parent has children with someone else?

If an obligor has children in more than one household, this will affect how much child support they must pay. State law reduces the amount of guideline support based on the number of children in other households. You can use the Texas Attorney General Child Support Calculator to calculate child support in this type of situation.Also seeTexas Family Code 154.128and 154.129.

Child Support in Texas | Texas Law Help (1)

Will the judge always order guideline child support?

Under Texas law, judges presume that setting child support based on the guidelines is in a child’s best interest. A judge can order child support in a different amount, however, based on various factors. These factors may include the following:

  • The child’s age and needs, including healthcare;

  • The parents’ income and resources;

  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child;

  • Whether the obligee has passed on a chance to earn more money so they can care for the child;

  • Child care expenses;

  • The cost of traveling for visitation; and

  • The cost of the child’s education.

What if the obligor is unemployed or underemployed?

If the obligor does not have a job, the court can base child support on the amount the obligor would earn at a full-time minimum-wage job. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour or $290 per week before taxes. This presumption does not apply if the obligor is in prison or jail for at least 90 days.

Intentional unemployent or underemployment can be a different story. If an obligor could earn more money but chooses not to, the court can look at their earning potential.

Suppose for example, that a parent has earned a good salary for many years. At some point before the court orders child support, they quit that job and take a new job with a fraction of the pay. The purpose of child support is to benefit the child. The parent’s reasons for the change in employment are not as important as the effect on the child. The court will consider whether the obligor is trying to avoid child support. They can consider how much the parent could be making when setting the amount.

What if the obligor goes to jail or prison?

Texas law states that a judge should not order child support if:

  • The obligor is in jail or prison at the time the court is making the order; and

  • They will continue to be in jail or prison for at least 90 days.

Either parent can file to establish child support when the obligor gets out. This often involves filing to modify an existing custody order.

An existing child support obligation does not end if the obligor goes to jail or prison. A sentence of at least 90 days, however, is a “substantial and material change in circumstances” that would justify a change in the amount of child support. Either parent can file a motion to modify. A court might reduce the amount the obligor must pay, or it can temporarily suspend payments until the obligor’s release.

Will I have to pay child support if I receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is a benefit for elderly people and people with disabilities. The amount of benefits that you receive depends on how much you have earned in the past.

Texas law includes SSDI in a person’s income for the purpose of calculating child support. The child of a parent who receives SSDI may also be eligible for benefits. If you can get SSDI for your child, the court will count that as part of your child support payment.

Will I have to pay child support if I receive Social Security Income (SSI)?

The SSI program pays benefits to low-income elderly people, people with impaired vision, and people with disabilities. To be eligible for SSI, you have to show that you have very low income and few resources.

Texas does not count SSI as income for child support purposes. If SSI is your only source of income, you do not have to pay child support. If you have a child support obligation from before you went on SSI, you can ask the court to change the amount you must pay to $0. You will need a statement from the Social Security Administration showing that you receive SSI.

What if my child is disabled?

Do not use the forms if your child is disabled.

Child support may affect your child’s eligibility for public benefits like Medicaid. A lawyer may be able to help you find an alternative to child support, such as a special needs trust. The TexasLawHelp forms do not include this option.

State law allows a judge to order child support for a disabled child to continue after the child becomes an adult. The TexasLawHelp forms do not include this option.

You can use our Legal Help Directory tool to search for a lawyer referral service or free legal aid program in your area.

Can we make our own child support agreement?

Judges tend to like it when parents agree on issues like child support. A judge will not approve just any agreement, though. They must find that it is in the child’s best interest. The agreement must be in writing and included in the order that you present to the judge.

Be careful about how you agree to child support. If you agree on an amount that is different from the guidelines, it can be difficult to change the amount later. See our page on Changing a Child Support Order for more information.

Will the judge order child support if we are sharing time with the children equally?

It depends. If you are truly sharing time with your child 50-50, a judge might still want to consider how much income each of you have. The judge might not order child support if you both make about the same amount of money. If one of you has a much higher income, though, that person may have to pay child support to the other. The judge does not have to order an amount based on the guidelines in this situation.

Where do I send my child support payments?

Child support payments go to the OAG’s Texas Child Support State Disbursement Unit (SDU). They will send the money to the obligee. They do this so they can make sure obligors are following their court orders. Options for making payments include the following:

  • Credit card by phone or online;

  • Automatic bank draft;

  • Electronic payment using a service like MoneyGram;

  • Check or money order by mail;

  • In-person payment in cash at a self-service kiosk; or

  • Withholding from income.

You can get more information about payment options on the OAG’s website or by calling 800-252-8014.

When a judge signs the order establishing child support, you can ask them to sign an Income Withholding Order for Support. This order directs your employer to withhold child support payments from your paychecks. This is the easiest option for you as the obligor, since you never have to remember due dates for payments. Your employer is responsible for sending payments to the SDU.

What if I don’t pay my child support?

Child support is court-ordered obligation! If you do not pay, you are violating a court order. A judge can do the following:

  • Order you to pay all past-due child support with interest;

  • Fine you or sentence you to jail for contempt of court;

  • Take your federal income tax refund;

  • Take any lottery winnings you might receive;

  • Suspend your driver’s license, hunting license, fishing license, and any professional licenses; and

  • Place a lien on your property.

What if the other parent isn’t paying child support as ordered?

If the other parent is not making child support payments, contact the OAG’s Child Support Division. They can give you information about filing an enforcement action. TexasLawHelp does not offer child support enforcement forms.

Caution: You cannot withhold visitation if the other parent is not paying child support. Visitation is a separate issue that does not depend on paying support. You could find yourself violating the court order if you do not let the parent see the child.

Can child support be changed?

You can ask the court to order more or less child support in certain circumstances. See our article on Changing a Child Support Order for more information.

If you and the other parent can agree on a new child support amount, you can present a written agreement to the court. The judge must find that your agreement will be in the child’s best interests. You cannot change child support without getting a new court order.

Where can I read the law?

Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code covers child support.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 07/28/2023

Views: 6685

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.