How to Calculate Child Support in Texas

Texas Max Child Support Cap Increased September 1, 2019; Monthly Net Income for Cap Changed in 2020

Texas child support guidelines have a cap on the amount of monthly net income (figured on Texas Office of the Attorney General tax tables) on which a parent must pay child support. Every six years the Texas legislature adjusts the cap on that monthly net income amount for inflation.

On September 1, 2019, the cap on the maximum amount of monthly net resources (total monthly income less certain deductions - see calculations below) on which Texas child support is calculated rose from $8550 per month to $9200 per month.  The Texas 2019 maximum child support amount went up on September 1, 2019 from $1710 per month for one child to $1840; from $2137.50 for two children to $2300; from $2,565 for three children to $2760; and from $2992.50 for four children to $3,220.  These amounts will be lower if the paying parent has an obligation to support other children in addition to those before the court (see the multifamily table below).

The 2019 increased cap on the maximum guideline Texas child support payment applies to child support payers who meet the new higher income caps, even those who already had a divorce decree or a court order about child support.  It is also important to note the amount of monthly gross income it takes to reach the max monthly net income depends on that year's tax laws, as adjusted by the Texas Office of the Attorney General in annual tax tables.   

Please do not panic if you are a parent paying child support or celebrate prematurely if you are a parent receiving child support.

The September 1, 2019 child support max cap increase applies to: 

  1. Employed child support payers whose gross monthly resources (income from all sources) is between the pre-September 1, 2019 max of $12,283.29 per month ($147,399.48 gross income annually) and the post-September 1, 2019 max adjusted for 2020 tax changes of $12,300.57 per month ($147,606.84 gross income annually) or more; and
  2. Self-employed payers whose gross monthly resources (income from all sources) is between the pre-September 1, 2019 max of $13,143.15 per month ($157,717.80 gross income annually) and the post-September 1, 2019 max adjusted for 2020 tax changes of $13,186.25 per month ($158,235 gross income annually) or more.

Neither the Texas Attorney General nor the family court will automatically increase the amount of child support on or after September 1, 2019 if the payer's income is above the previous cap. Also, the 2019 maximum child support cap increase is not retroactive in the sense that it would cause maximum child support payments made in the past to increase resulting in an arrearage and past due child support.

In other words, to actually get paid the higher max child support, the parent who receives child support must bring the increased payment responsibility to the attention of the paying parent for his or her voluntary agreement to start paying more if the increased monthly net income caps apply.  Detente mediators are happy to help explain the law; facilitate the parents' discussion and negotiation; and guide parents through the completion of the court paperwork to modify any previous child support order they may have. 

Remember too, parents can always make an agreement to a child support amount different from Texas guideline child support requirements (find out how to do that here). Whatever way it happens whenever it happens, if there is any change in the amount a parent has been prdered to pay in child support up or down for any reason, the parties will need a modification of their divorce decree or child support order that is approved and ordered by the court for the new amount to be enforceable.

Guideline child support in Texas is calculated most often using the Texas Office of the Attorney General's tax charts that show monthly net resources for various incomes after subtracting social security tax and Federal income tax paid for a single person claiming one personal deduction and the standard deduction.  See the 2020 Texas Attorney General's Tax Charts

Texas Attorney General's tax tables from 2018 or before will be inaccurate for calculating child support under the 2019 revised maximum child support cap increases and social security and tax rate increases/decreases under the 2017 and 2020 tax law changes. Texas AG's tables for other years can be found here.

For general information, go to "Child Support, Medical/Dental".  To calculate current Texas child support amounts see below. 

How do I calculate my child support payment in Texas?

Texas has a child support formula to determine the amount the state "presumes" is in the child’s best interest.  In mediation we help you with these calculations.  In a nutshell, child support in Texas is determined by figuring out the average net monthly resources of the noncustodial parent and applying guidelines established by the Texas legislature that require paying a percentage of those average net monthly resources in child support depending on how many children there are. The percentages are slightly different if the paying parent has a legal responsibility to also pay for other children who are not involved in the parents’ current dealings (see the Multiple Family Adjusted Guidelines table below).  As stated above, there is a cap on the maximum amount of Texas guideline child support.

What happens to Texas guideline child support if we choose 50/50 equal possession instead of Standard Possession Order or if there is also alimony (spousal maintenance)?

Click here to learn more about how to calculate Texas child support when parents have equal possession of the children (50/50 parenting time) instead of Standard Possession Order (65/35 parenting time) and what effect contractual alimony (spousal maintenance) has on child support.

Calculate Average Net Monthly Resources

If you want to make a stab at calculating the amount of guideline child support in Texas yourself, you will need to calculate the paying parent's average net monthly resources.  This is done by first calculating gross income on an annual basis.

Remember, when you calculate annual gross income, if you get paid a fixed amount, take the gross amount paid (without taking out taxes, social security, or other deductions) and multiply it by 52 if paid weekly, multiply it by 12 if paid monthly, by 24 if paid two times per month, or by 26 if paid every two weeks.

Include the following income in your annual gross income: 

  1. One hundred percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses);
  2. Interest, dividends, and royalty income;
  3. Self-employment income;
  4. Net rental income (rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation);  and
  5. All other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement pay, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, unemployment benefits, disability and workers' compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, child support, and alimony.

Do not include in your gross income:

  1. Return of principal or capital on a note not included in net resources;
  2. Accounts receivable;
  3. Benefits paid through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
  4. Payments for foster care; or
  5. Net resources of a new spouse.

Do the division to get your average monthly gross income then subtract:

Divide the annual gross income you get by 12 to give you average monthly gross income, then subtract the following from the average monthly income to give you average net monthly resources:

  1. Social security tax and Federal income taxes paid for a single person (these taxes based one personal deduction and the standard deduction are figured for you for both salaried and self employed persons in the Texas Attorney General's 2020 Tax Charts;
  2. State income taxes;
  3. Union dues; 
  4. Child's health insurance cost or cash medical support (and for new cases filed after September 1, 2018 also include child's dental insurance cost); and
  5. Non-discretionary retirement contributions if the noncustodial parent does not pay social security taxes.

Monthly Texas Child Support Guidelines

Before September 1, 2019, if the average net monthly resources are $8550 or less, the amount of child support is calculated as a percentage of the average net monthly resources.  On and after September 1, 2019 if the average net monthly resources are $9200 or less, the amount of child support is calculated as a percentage of the average net monthly resources. To determine the amount of monthly child support, apply the percentages below in Table 1 to the average net monthly resources you just calculated.  

Table 1 Texas Child Support Guidelines:  Percentages of Net Monthly Resources per Child

  • One Child                 20% of net resources
  • Two Children            25% of net resources
  • Three Children         30% of net resources
  • Four Children           35% of net resources
  • Five Children            40% of net resources
  • Six Children             Not less than 40% of net resources

For example, if average net monthly resources are $3000, then monthly Texas child support under the guidelines would be:

  • $600 for one child ($3000 x 20%)
  • $750 for two children ($3000 x 25%)

Effect of Social Security or Disability Benefits on Texas Child Support

If the child receives social security or disability benefits from the paying spouse's old age social security or disability benefits, those amounts are subtracted from the total amount of child support as calculated under the Texas child support guidelines.

What if the Payer Earns More than the Maximum Income Cap? 

if the average net monthly resources of the parent paying child support is more than $9200 after September 1, 2019, then the amount of Texas child support may be adjusted upward over the caps if the child's "proven needs" are greater than the cap amount of guideline child support.  A court may order one or both parents depending on their circumstances to pay the difference between the Texas guideline child support amount and the child's "proven needs", but the judge cannot order more than the presumptive Texas guideline amount of child support or one hundred percent of the child's "proven needs", whichever is greater (unless of course the parents agree to that amount).

What happens to the amount of child support I owe if I have a duty to support other children too? 

The Texas guideline percentage of average net monthly resources you pay for child support is lower if you have other biological or adopted children you support from a previous relationship or a court order to support another child.  For example, if a parent has only one child from the current marriage and no other children to support and has net monthly resources of $2,500, the amount of guideline child support would be $500 per month (20% X $2,500).  See table 1 above. 

However, if a parent also had two biological or adopted children (not a stepchild) to support from another relationship, the percentage of net monthly resources to support one child of the current marriage goes down to 16% (found at the intersection of the row for 2 "other children the parent has a duty to support" and the column under the 1 showing the "number of children before the court").  So in this example, the amount of the guideline child support for the one child before the court would be $400 per month (16% X $2,500).

The chart below shows the percentages of net resources depending on how many children there are before the court and how many other children (biological or adopted) there are to be supported.

What factors can a judge consider to set the child support amount above or below the guideline amount?

A judge may adjust child support up or down from the presumptive amount under the Texas child support guidelines depending on:

  • The age and needs of the child;
  • Educational expenses beyond secondary school;
  • Provisions for health insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
  • Extraordinary educational, health-care, or other expenses of the parties or the child;
  • Any resources available for the child's support;
  • Whether either party has managing conservatorship or possession of another child;
  • Each party's period of possession or access to the child;
  • Child care expenses that allow either party to maintain gainful employment;
  • Each parent's respective ability to contribute to the child's support;
  • The paying spouse's earning capacity if intentionally unemployed or underemployed and any deemed income;
  • Spousal maintenance paid or received;
  • Benefits such as a car, house, or other benefits paid by an employer, another person or a business;
  • Paycheck deductions other than those already factored into calculating net monthly resources;
  • Cash flow from any real or personal property including businesses or investments;
  • Debts assumed by either party; or
  • Any other reason consistent with child's best interest, taking into consideration the parents' circumstances.

The judge is not allowed to consider these factors:

  • A history of voluntary payment above the guidelines amount;
  • The sex of the paying spouse, the recipient spouse, or the child; or
  • The marital status of the child's parents.

Click here for answers about medical and dental support, how to modify child support, what happens if someone stops paying, and other questions.

Do You Also Need Custody and Parenting Plans?

If you are getting divorced and have children or you are unmarried parents, you will need to decide custody and a parenting plan if those have not already been addressed in a previous court action. Figuring out who makes decisions for the child, where the child will live and go to school, and when he or she will see each parent can be more emotional and difficult than reaching agreement on child support. Mediation is a good place to work through those very important decisions with your attorney-mediator’s guidance. You may also add to your team a child or parenting specialist from Détente’s network of allied professionals if you should so choose. We see parents for child support, custody, and parenting plan mediation in Colleyville, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth) or through tele-mediation over Zoom for Texas residents anywhere in the state, United States, or the world.  Yes, really!  Call Détente at 817.283.5100 to schedule an appointment or click the free consultation button.