Child support is one of those areas of law where everyone thinks they know how the system works, says Texas Legal network attorney Charles Beachley. But what you think you know is probably wrong. August is Child Support Awareness month, and Beachley, who is board certified in the area of family law, shared with us five common myths about child support in Texas.
Child Support Myth #1: Overtime and Bonuses Don’t Count Toward Child Support
Beachley says a lot of folks believe that because overtime and bonuses aren’t guaranteed, they won’t be used to calculate your child support payments. Not so, he says. According to the Texas Family Code, overtime and bonuses are included when the court calculates what a parent owes in child support. Tips, retirement, pensions, self employment income, and trust income are also included, says Beachley.
Child Support Myth #2: If You Don’t See Your Kids, You Don’t Have to Pay Child Support.
Even if your ex doesn’t allow you to visit your kids, you still have to pay child support, says Beachley.
“Even though common sense and that community sense of fairness and equity would support this position, the law is 180 degrees away,” says Beachley.
Beachley says almost every child support Decree of Order includes language that says visitation and child support are separate issues. Your ex can’t refuse visitation for failure to pay child support, but likewise, you still owe child support even if you don’t see your kids.
Child Support Myth #3: With One Child, the Payment is 20 percent of Your Take Home Pay
When the state calculates how much your child support payment will be, they use a percentage rate based on an average pay period. But once that amount is calculated, it doesn’t change.
“Your employer does not get ordered to recalculate your child support withholding with each paycheck,” says Beachley. “The Court orders a specific amount per month and that amount does not change regardless of fluctuations in your pay, gross or net.”
In addition, child support payments are calculated by looking at your total take-home pay, and that doesn’t include any deductions to your paycheck that may lower that amount. Say you make $4,000 a month at your job, but a few hundred dollars goes into your 401K or to car payment at your employer-sponsored credit union, instead of into your bank account. The court doesn’t consider those deductions when calculating how much you owe.
Child Support Myth #4: If I Quit My Job, I Don’t Have to Pay Child Support
Nope. If you quit your job, don’t look for work, or choose to work in a job where you make less money than you potentially could make (“flipping burgers with your PhD,” as Beachley says), the court won’t be happy.
“If the judge decides you are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the Court can set your child support based on what he or she thinks you should be making,” says Beachley.
If you still don’t comply, the court will give you “three hots and a cot,” as Beachley says, otherwise known as jail time.
Child Support Myth #5: I Can Give Money Directly to My Kid, Not My Ex
You’re welcome to give as much money to your child as you like, says Beachley, but it won’t count toward your child support payment.
“I once had a parent try to get credit against child support arrears by presenting a check made payable to the child and with “Happy Birthday” in the memo slot. Didn’t work,” he says.
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