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Child Support, Medical Support, and Dental Support

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This article tells you about child support, medical support, and dental support in Texas, including how to get or change a child support order. LINK TO FORMS INCLUDED. 

 

What is child support?

Child support is money a parent pays to help with the cost of raising a child, such as the cost of food, housing, clothing, school supplies, daycare and activities.

A parent can be ordered to pay child support by a judge. Even if there is no court order, both parents are expected to financially support their child. A parent who does not live with a child and does not help support the child may be ordered to pay “back” or “retroactive” child support to the person who cared for the child.

Who gets child support?

Child support is paid to the person with whom the child lives the majority of the time. This is usually a parent, but not always. The person who gets child support is called the “obligee” or “custodial parent.”

Who pays child support?

A parent who does not have primary custody of a child is expected to pay child support. A parent ordered to pay child support is called the “obligor” or “non-custodial parent.”

What is medical support?

Medical support is additional child support a parent is ordered to pay to cover the cost of health insurance and uninsured medical expenses for a child.

A parent can be ordered to pay medical support by:

  • providing health insurance coverage for the child, or
  • paying the other parent for the cost of health insurance coverage ("cash medical support"), or
  • paying cash medical support if the child receives Medicaid.

The parent ordered to pay child support is generally the parent ordered to pay for health insurance for the child or pay cash medical support. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.064.

The parent ordered to pay medical support is only required to pay the “reasonable cost” of providing health insurance coverage for the child. Reasonable cost means the cost of health insurance that does not exceed 9% of the obligor's annual resources. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.181(e). For example, if the amount of obligor's gross annual resources is $30,000, then the "reasonable cost" of medical support cannot exceed $2,700 per year, or $225 per month.

Beginning September 1, 2018, a court must also order dental support in addition to medical support for the child. See Texas Family Code sections 154.1815 and 154.1825. For more information on the dental support requirement go here.

Each parent is usually ordered to pay 50% of a child’s uninsured, or out-of-pocket, medical and dental expenses.

 

What is dental support?

Dental support is like medical support. It is additional child support that a parent is ordered to pay to cover the reasonable cost of dental insurance and uninsured dental expenses for a child.

Beginning September 1, 2018, the court must order that dental insurance be provided for the child. See Texas Family Code chapters 154.1815 and 154.1825.

Like medical support, a parent can be ordered to pay dental support by:

  • providing dental insurance coverage for the child, or
  • paying the other parent for the reasonable cost of dental insurance coverage (“cash medical support”), or
  • paying cash medical support if the child receives Medicaid.

The parent ordered to pay dental support is only required to pay the “reasonable cost” of dental insurance coverage for the child. Reasonable cost means the cost of dental insurance that does not exceed 1.5% of the obligor's annual resources. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.1815. For example, if the amount of the obligor's gross annual resources is $30,000, then the "reasonable cost" of dental support that an obligor is ordered to pay cannot exceed $450 per year, or $37.50 per month.

Dental support is in addition to regular child support and the medical support. For example, if you are ordered to pay $500 per month child support, $150 per month medical support, and $25 a month in dental support, the total amount you are ordered to pay is $675 per month.

 

Are medical support and dental support in addition to regular child support?

Yes. Medical support is in addition to regular child support. For example, if you are ordered to pay $500 per month child support and $150 per month medical support, the total amount you are ordered to pay is $650 per month.

What if my child doesn’t have health insurance?

Your child may qualify for health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Get information here: www.chipmedicaid.org

How can I get child support, medical support, and dental support?

Child support, medical support, and dental support can be ordered by a judge as part of a:

  • divorce case, or
  • custody case called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR for short), or
  • paternity case, or
  • family violence protective order case, or  
  • modification case (if there is already a court order about the child in place).

 

Are there do-it-yourself forms I can use to ask for child support and medical and dental support?

Yes. TexasLawHelp.org has toolkits with instructions and do-it-yourself forms that you can use to ask for child support and medical and dental support. Note: The instructions are written for uncontested cases (agreed or default). If your case is contested, it’s best to hire a lawyer or apply for help from the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division.

  • Use this toolkit if you and the other parent are married and want a divorce: I need a divorce. We have minor children. The judge will make custody, visitation, child support and medical and dental support orders in your divorce.
  • Use this toolkit if (1) you and the other parent are not married (or don’t want a divorce) and (2) you and the other parent have signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity: I need a SAPCR (custody) order. I am the child’s parent. The judge will make custody, visitation, child support and medical and dental support orders in the custody case.
  • Use this toolkit if (1) you and the other parent are not married and (2) you and the other parent have NOT signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity: I need a paternity order. The judge will make custody, visitation, child support and medical and dental support orders in the paternity case.
  • Use this toolkit if (1) you are not the child’s parent and (2) there are no court orders about the child already in place: I need a SAPCR (custody) order. I am not the child’s parent. The judge will make custody, visitation, child support and medical and dental support orders in the custody case.
  • Use this toolkit if there is already an existing court order: I need to change a custody, visitation or support order. The judge can order or change child support and medical and dental support in a modification case.

If you need help choosing the correct toolkit, use Ask a Question to chat with a law student or lawyer online.

If you need a family violence protective order call the National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). They can refer you to help in your community.

Can anyone help me get child support and medical support?

Yes. You can hire a private lawyer or contact the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for help getting child support and medical support.

Although the OAG cannot represent you, the OAG may be able to help you get a custody, visitation, child support (including back child support) and medical support order. For information about opening a case with the OAG, call 1-800-255-8014 or go to its website: Texas Attorney General Child Support Division

If there has been family violence, get information about working with the OAG safely here: www.getchildsupportsafely.org

How is child support calculated?

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

1 child = 20% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

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

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

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

5 children = 40% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

6 or more children = not less than 40% of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources

See Texas Family Code chapter 154.125.

For example, if the noncustodial parent’s average monthly net resources is $3000, then guideline child support for two children would be $750 per month. ($3,000 x 25%).

Remember, when calculating the average monthly net resources for the child support guidelines, the noncustodial parent is given credit for the amount they are paying in medical and dental insurance, or in cash medical and dental support, whichever the case may be.

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 guideline child support would step down from $750 per month ($3,000 x 25%) to $600 per month ($3,000 x 20%) when the oldest child turns 18 and graduates from high school. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.127.

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

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

What if the non-custodial parent has children with someone else?

Guideline child support is slightly different if the non-custodial parent has other children.

This chart tells you the percentage the judge will apply to the non-custodial parent’s average monthly net resources if the non-custodial parent has other children. See Texas Family Code Section 154.129.

Multiple Family Adjusted Guidelines

You can also use the Texas Attorney General Child Support Calculator to calculate guideline child support when the non-custodial parent has other children.

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, - and -
  • income taxes for a single person, - and -
  • 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 Section 154.062.

Resources” is money from all sources, including wages, overtime, tips, bonuses, dividend income, self-employment income, 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 chapters 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 chapter 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 chapters 154.122 and 154.123.

 

Can we make our own child support agreement?

Maybe. If the judge decides your agreement is in the child’s best interest, the judge will sign an order based on your agreement. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.124.

The agreement must be in writing and included in the order.

Caution: After September 1, 2018, it may become more difficult to modify child support if you and the other parent reached an agreement in the past and the agreement differed from the guidelines. See Texas Family Code chapter 156.401(a).

 

Will the judge order child support if we are sharing time with the children equally?

That depends. If you and the other parent earn about the same income, there may be no need for child support. If one parent earns significantly more, the judge may calculate guideline child support for each parent and then order the higher earning parent to pay the lower earning parent the difference.

For example, if you have two children and one parent’s average monthly income is $6,000 and the other parent’s is $3,000. The judge may calculate guideline child support for the higher earning parent ($6,000 x 25% = $1500) and the lower earning parent ($3,000 x 25% = $750) and order the higher earning parent to pay $750 per month child support ($1500 - $750 = $750).

It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about this issue.

What if my child is disabled?

Do not use the TexasLawHelp.org forms if your child is disabled.

Child support may affect your child’s eligibility for public benefits including Medicaid. A lawyer may be able to help you set up a special needs trust for your child instead of child support. The TexasLawHelp forms do not include this option.

A judge may also order that child support for a disabled child continue after the child becomes an adult. The TexasLawHelp forms do not include this option.

You can use our Legal Help Finder tool to search for a lawyer referral service or free legal aid program in your area.

 

What if the non-custodial parent is unemployed or underemployed when determining child support?

If the noncustodial parent is not working, a judge can calculate child support based on the presumption that the parent can earn minimum wage for a 40-hour work week. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.068(a).

This minimum wage presumption does not apply if the court finds that the other parent is in jail or prison and will be there for more than 90 days. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.068(b).

If a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed (not working to the parent’s full earning potential), the court may base the child support on the parent’s earning potential. See Texas Family Code chapter 154.066. Talk to a lawyer if you think the other parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.

 

What if the non-custodial parent is in jail or prison when the order is made?

If the non-custodial parent does not have any income because he or she is in jail or prison at the time the order is made (and will be there for at least 90 days), the law says the judge should not order child support. See Texas Family Code Section 154.068 (b).

When the non-custodial parent gets out of jail or prison, either parent can file a modification case to ask that child support be ordered. Get modification instructions and forms here: I need to change a custody, visitation or support order.

What if the non-custodial parent is sent to jail or prison after child support has been ordered?

Child support will not automatically end if you go to jail or prison. You must ask the court to stop or reduce your child support if you can’t pay it. If not, the amount you owe will continue to add up while you’re in prison, and you will owe all of that money once released. You can file a modification case to ask the judge to change your child support order. Get modification instructions and forms here: I need to change a custody, visitation or support order.

You may also be able to get help lowering your monthly child support payment by contacting the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division and asking for a review and adjustment packet.

Will I have to pay child support if I receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

SSDI is a social security benefit paid to the elderly and disabled. The amount of SSDI a person gets is based on how much the person has earned in the past. The more work history a person has, the more SSDI they can receive. A parent getting SSDI can be ordered to pay child support because SSDI is considered income. SSDI can be used for both current and past-due child support.

When a parent gets SSDI, his or her dependent children may be able to get SSDI dependent benefits. The parent getting SSDI should apply for dependent benefits on behalf of the children. How much the children get depends on the parent’s work history. The court will count the SSDI benefits the child gets towards payment of the child support obligation. The court may also order the non-custodial parent to pay additional child support. Usually, the parent will only be ordered to pay additional money if the amount of SSDI the children get is less than the amount of the child support that should be paid.

Will I have to pay child support if I receive Social Security Income (SSI)?

SSI is a program that makes monthly payments to elderly, blind or disabled people with a very low income and few resources. A parent can’t be forced to pay child support if his or her only income is SSI. Texas law specifically says that SSI is not income. Tell the court if your only income is SSI. Get a statement from the Social Security Administration stating that you get SSI and give this statement to the court. If you were ordered to pay child support before you began getting SSI, you can ask the court to change your child support amount to $0. Use this toolkit to ask a judge to change your child support: I need to change a custody, visitation or support order.

How long does child support last?

Child support (including medical support) usually lasts until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. If the child is disabled, child support can continue for as long as it is needed.

If you owe “back” child support or medical support, you must continue to pay until the debt is paid in full.

What is “back” child support?

If a parent does not live with a child and does not help to support the child, the parent may be ordered to pay “back” or “retroactive” child support to the person who cared for the child. This is true even if there is not a prior court order. If there is a court order, the person who doesn’t pay child support as ordered will be ordered to repay the child support “arrears” with interest.

What is an Income Withholding Order?

The easiest way to make sure your child support payments are made as required is to have the payment withheld from your paycheck through an Income Withholding Order for Support. A withholding order orders your employer to withhold the child support from your paycheck and send the child support to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU will then send the child support to the other parent. A court is required to sign a withholding order in every case child support is ordered. However, in some cases the parents can agree not to have the withholding order sent to the employer. In that case, the parent ordered to pay child support must send each payment to the SDU him or herself.

 

Where do I send my child support payments?

You can pay your child support by phone or online using a credit card, by bank draft, by mail or by using MoneyGram or Fidelity XPressPay. Read about your child support payment options here: Texas Attorney General - Payment Options

If you have any questions, call the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division at (800) 252-8014.

Do NOT pay child support directly to the other parent.

All child support payments must go through the Texas Child Support State Disbursement Unit (SDU). Paying child support through the SDU protects you by providing the court with an impartial record of payments you have made. Any payments you make directly to the other parent can be considered gifts and won’t count as child support.

 

What if I don’t pay my child support?

If you don’t to pay your court ordered child support, a judge can:

  • sentence you to jail, and
  • order you to pay all child support owed with interest, and
  • take your federal income tax refund, and
  • suspend your driver’s license, and
  • suspend any professional licenses you might have, and
  • suspend your hunting license and fishing license, and
  • order a lien filed against your property, and
  • take your lottery winnings.

 

What if the other parent isn’t paying child support as ordered?

If the other parent isn’t paying child support as ordered, contact the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division for help filing an enforcement action.

TexasLawHelp does not offer child support enforcement forms.

 

If the other parent is not paying child support, do I still have to let the other parent visit?

Yes! You can be held in contempt for not allowing court ordered visits. It’s also important for your child to spend time with both parents.

 

Can child support be changed?

Yes. You can ask a judge to order more or less child support if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Child support can also be changed if it has been at least three years since the last child support order and the new guideline child support amount would differ by 20% or $100 from the current amount.

You can ask the court to change a child support order by filing a modification case. For more information, read: I need to change a custody, visitation or support order.

Can the other parent and I agree to change child support without going to court?

No. Only a court can change a child support order.

 

Where can I read the law?

Read the law about child support and medical support in Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code.

 

If we split custody equally will the judge order medical and dental support?

Yes. A judge must always order that medical support and dental support* be provided for the child, even if you are sharing time with the children equally.

See Texas Family Code chapter 154.008.

*beginning September 1, 2018