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Child Support in Texas

Child Support & Medical Support

This article discusses child support in Texas, including how to get or change a child support order.

Learn about child support in Texas, including who pays it and who receives it, how to get a child support order, and how long it lasts. Find out about the factors that go into calculating child support, including net resources, the cost of health insurance, and child care costs. Get information about modifying a child support order, and find out what to do if a parent fails to pay child support.

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. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:  

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

Can I get child support orders on my own? has guides you can use to get a child support order yourself. These forms and instructions work best for uncontested cases (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:  

If you need help choosing the correct guide, 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. 

But, 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. Terminating parental rights will not erase back child support. 

If the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS/CPS) has temporary conservatorship of a child or permanent conservatorship of a child but parental rights have not been terminated, the court might order either or both parents to pay child support.  

Even if your parental rights have been terminated, you might be ordered to pay child support until the child is adopted or any of the above-mentioned instances happen. 

Read Texas Family Code 154.001 and 154.006 for more information.

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.” Read the article Child Support to learn more.

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 (but not VA pension); 

  • 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. 

Read Texas Family Code 154.062 through 154.065 for a full list of net resources and further explanation. 

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 current wage in the obligor’s area and job opportunities. 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.  

Read Texas Family Code 154.0655 for the law about the imputation of income. 

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 $9,200 per month. A judge can order additional child support based on the parent’s 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 see Texas Family Code 154.128 and 154.129.

Multiple Family Adjusted Guidelines
% Net monthly
  Number of children before the court
Number of
children for
whom the
obligor has
a duty of
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
0 20% 25% 30% 35% 35% 40% 40%
1 17.50% 22.50% 27.38% 32.20% 37.33% 37.71% 38%
2 16% 20.63% 25.20% 30.33% 35.43% 36% 36.44%
3 14.75% 19% 24% 29% 34% 34.67% 35.20%
4 13.60% 18.33% 23.14% 28% 32.89% 33.60% 34.18%
5 13.33% 17.86% 22.50% 27.22% 32% 32.73% 33.33%
6 13.14% 17.50% 22% 26.60% 31.27% 32% 32.62%
7 13% 17.22% 21.60% 26.09% 30.67% 31.38% 32%

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.

Read Texas Family Code 154.123 to read all the additional factors the court considers for child support payments. 

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. Texas Family Code 154.068

Intentional unemployment 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.  

The court or the Title IV-D agency can order an unemployed or underemployed obligor to: 

  • Enroll and fully participate in a community program that provides employment assistance, skills training, or job placement services; or 

  • Work, have a plan to pay child support, or participate in work activities appropriate to pay their support obligation. 

Texas Family Code 154.017

For example, a parent earned a good salary for many years. Then 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 parents’ reasons for a 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.  

Texas Family Code 154.0655.

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. After receiving notice that the obligor will be incarcerated for at least 180 days, the OAG will review and adjust the obligor’s child support, medical support, and dental support obligation. The OAG will adjust the obligor’s support amounts based on the child support guidelines and the obligor’s net resources during incarceration. The adjustment will take place 30 days after notice of the adjustment is sent to all parties. 

Child support will not be adjusted if the obligor is incarcerated: 

  • Due to their failure to follow a child support order; or 

  • For family violence against the obligee or a child of the support order. 

After the obligor is released from jail or prison, the OAG will review the support order and determine if a modification of child support is necessary. 

You can read the law on this in Texas Family Code 154.068(b) and Texas Family Code 231.1015 through 231.1017.

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. You cannot permanently waive child support. 

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. Read the article Changing a Child Support Order for more information.  

The law on child support agreements can be found in Texas Family Code 154.124.

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, medical support, and dental 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. If the wait for the OAG to assist with enforcement is too long or you do not want to involve the OAG, you can enforce your orders on your own. Read Enforcing Your Child Support Orders on Your Own to learn how. 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. 

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