Texas Child Support Increases Sept. 1: Could You Be Affected?
by Serena Hudson (co-author) as published by Texas Lawyer
In June, the Office of Attorney General for the State of Texas announced that the maximum amount of child support that can be ordered under the Texas Child Support Guidelines will increase effective Sept. 1. This change in the law will, in effect, raise the amount of maximum child support under the Texas Child Support Guidelines from $1,710 per month to $1,840 per month for one child.
Those who are currently paying child support or receiving child support, or those who may be doing so soon, could be affected.
1. What is the Change?
Under the Texas Child Support Guidelines, child support is determined based on one’s net monthly resources, i.e., income received per month less specific enumerated deductions. Once one’s net monthly resources are calculated by the court, then a percentage is applied based upon the number of children before the court (i.e., 20% for one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three children, etc.). However, the Texas Child Support Guidelines provide a “cap” on the amount of net monthly resources that can be used to calculate child support. This “cap” means that no matter how much one person may make in net monthly resources each month, the Texas Family Code limits or caps that amount which, in turn, limits or caps the amount of child support one has to pay. Currently, that “cap” is set at $8,550.00 in net monthly resources, but it will increase to $9,200.00 on Sept. 1. This change in the law has the effect of increasing the amount of maximum child support under the Texas Child Support Guidelines for one child from $1,710.00 to $1,840.00 (i.e., 20% of $8,550.00 versus 20% of $9,200.00).
The Texas Family Code does allow one to request an amount of child support that deviates from the amounts as calculated by the Texas Child Support Guidelines (i.e., “above-guideline child support”), but those are typically rare circumstances.
2. Why is this “Cap” Being Increased?
Every six years, the Texas Legislature adjusts the “cap” for determining child support under the Texas Child Support Guidelines to reflect changes in inflation based on the CPI (consumer price index). As such, the last automatic adjustment to the child support laws occurred in 2013. Now, in 2019, the Texas Legislature, again, adjusted the “cap” based on the Attorney General’s calculation of the increase in CPI.
3. How Does this New “Cap” Work Exactly?
This new “cap” affects each person differently depending on his or her net monthly resources, and when his or her child support obligation is calculated.
If one’s net monthly resources are less than $8,550.00, his or her child support obligation will NOT change on Sept. 1. Why? If one’s net monthly resources are less than the current “cap,” they are also less than the new “cap,” and nothing changes for that individual. For example: If one’s net monthly resources are $3,000.00, and that party has two children, then, the obligation will be $750.00 per month ($3,000.00 x 25% for two children). The “cap” never comes into play.
If someone is currently going through litigation, and that individual’s net monthly resources exceed $8,550 and the court orders child support prior to September 1, 2019, the Texas Child Support Guidelines will mandate that the Court apply the appropriate child support percentage only to the first $8,550 in net monthly resources based on the number of children. However, if the Court orders child support after Sept. 1, the calculation will be the same as before but the “cap” increases, and the Texas Child Support Guidelines will mandate that the Court apply the appropriate child support percentage to the first $9,200.00 in net monthly resources. Thus, if someone’s net monthly resources are $10,000.00, the maximum guideline child support for one child is $1,840.00 ($9,200 x 20%) beginning September 1, 2019.
4. Can my Support Obligation Increase Automatically based on this “New Cap”?
No, there are no automatic increases for future child support obligations. Texas family law courts, and the Texas Attorney General, cannot order automatic increases for future child support payments. However, persons with net monthly resources exceeding $8,550 can be ordered to pay an increased amount in the future through a suit for modification.
Whether by agreement, or by court intervention, any change in the child support obligation requires modification of the order for child support. A verbal agreement or informal agreement to modify the child support obligation will not suffice and will not be enforceable.
A native Houstonian, KoonsFuller family law attorney Serena Hudson assists clients with divorce, child custody, child support, and prenuptials and postnuptial agreements cases among other family law related matters. Serena was been named among ReviewIt’s Top Lawyers in 2018. Visit koonsfuller.com to learn more.