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Child Support and Lower Incomes

Child Support & Medical Support

Starting September 1, 2021, there are new guidelines for calculating child support when payors have limited resources.

Starting September 1, 2021, there are new guidelines for calculating child support when payors have limited resources. "Payor" here is a synonym for "obligor"the person who pays child support. "Payor" is a commonly used spelling variation for "payer" in the context of legal issues.

Are there different child support guidelines if my income is low?

Yes. Starting September 1, 2021, there are different child support guidelines for people whose monthly net resources are less than $1,000. See Texas Family Code 154.125(c).

What are the low-income child support guidelines?

Under Texas law, child support is actually calculated as a percentage of monthly net resources, not a percentage of income.

Texas law sets the following general guidelines for calculating child support. Child support based on these guidelines is called “guideline child support.”

In child support suits filed on or after September 1, 2021, a lower percentage of child support will be withheld if the noncustodial parent has $1,000 or less in monthly net resources.

1 child = 15% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

2 children = 20% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

3 children = 25% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

4 children = 30% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

5 children = 35% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

6 or more children = not less than the amount for five children.

See Texas Family Code chapter 154.125(c).

The amount of child support must be in the best interest of the child.

Example: Calculating child support for two children under low-income guidelines.

If a noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources are $900, then guideline child support for two children would be $180 per month. Under the low-income child support guidelines, child support for two children would be 20% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources, and 20% of $900 is $180.

If you have more than one child together, the amount of child support ordered will “step down” as child support ends for each child. Using the same example, if you have two children, low-income guideline child support would step down from $180 per month (20% of $900) to $135 per month (15% of $900) when the oldest child turns 18 and graduates from high school. See Texas Family Code 154.127.

Is there an online child support calculator?

You can use the Texas Attorney General Child Support Calculator to calculate regular guideline child support. 

What if the noncustodial parent has other children?

Guideline child support is slightly different if the noncustodial parent has other children.

See Texas Family Code 154.129.

If the child support payor has a very low income, and children in more than one household, how do you calculate child support?

In child support suits filed on or after September 1, 2021, different guidelines will apply if the noncustodial parent has children in other households, and the noncustodial parent's monthly net resources are less than $1,000.

A larger image of the table is available in this handout.

Low-Income CS Guidelines - Children Not Before Court

What income is included when calculating guideline child support?

Guideline child support is calculated based on the net resources of the noncustodial parent. Net resources are not the same thing as take-home pay.

For child support purposes, net resources equals all money received by the noncustodial parent (see list of money included below) minus the following:

  • Social Security taxes, 
  • income taxes for a single person,
  • the cost of health insurance, dental insurance, or cash medical support for the child (if paid by the noncustodial parent),
  • union dues, and
  • non-discretionary retirement contributions if the noncustodial parent does not pay social security taxes.

See Texas Family Code 154.062.

“Resources” is money from all sources, including

  • wages,
  • overtime,
  • tips,
  • bonuses,
  • dividend income,
  • self-employment income (including "gig economy" work such as driving for ride-sharing app, or delivery app, starting September 1, 2021),
  • severance pay,
  • retirement benefits,
  • pensions,
  • trust income,
  • annuities,
  • capital gains,
  • social security benefits (other than SSI),
  • veterans disability benefits (other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits),
  • unemployment benefits, 
  • disability and worker’s compensation benefits,
  • interest income,
  • gifts,
  • prizes,
  • spousal maintenance and alimony.

"Resources" does not include SSI, return on principal or capital, accounts receivable, TANF, or payments received for foster care of a child.

When calculating child support, the noncustodial parent’s net resources are capped at $8,550 per month.

If the noncustodial parent earns more than $8,550 per month, the judge can order additional child support based on the income of the parties and the proven needs of the child. See Texas Family Code 154.125 and 154.126

A judge cannot include the income of the noncustodial parent’s spouse when calculating child support. See Texas Family Code 154.069.

Are the low-income guidelines always applied for child support?

The court will presume that guideline child support is in the child's best interest. But, there are situations when the court can deviate from the guidelines. 

Some of the factors that the court can consider include the age and needs of the child; the parents' ability to support the child; the child's expenses; what the custody and visitation setup is; travel expenses; etc. See Texas Family Code 154.123 for a longer list.

What isn't included in "monthly net resources"?

"Resources" are not: SSI, return on principal or capital, accounts receivable, TANF, or payments received for foster care of a child.

A judge cannot include the income of the  noncustodial parent’s spouse when calculating child support. See Texas Family Code 154.069

Will the judge always order guideline child support?

The judge will usually order guideline child support. But not always. A judge may consider other factors to determine if applying the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. See Texas Family Code 154.122 and 154.123.

What if there is no evidence about the payor's income?

If there is no evidence about a party's resources, the court will consider relevant background circumstances regarding the obligor (person ordered to pay child support), such as the obligor's:

(A)  assets;

(B)  residence;

(C)  employment;

(D)  earnings history;

(E)  job skills;

(F)  educational attainment;

(G)  literacy;

(H)  age;

 (I)  health;

 (J)  criminal history;

 (K)  barriers to employment; and

 (L)  record of seeking work. 

The court will also consider  job opportunities in the obligor's community;   the prevailing wage in the obligor's community; and whether there are employers willing to hire the obligor.

(Texas Family Code 154.0655(c), effective September 1, 2021).

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    Related Forms

  • Low-Income Child Support Guidelines Handout

    FM-CS-800

    Tables explaining child support guidelines when the obligor has less than $1,000/month in net resources.