But according to Texas law, both parents have a legal obligation to support their children. And there are back child support laws that mean a non-custodial parent might have to make payments to cover the period before a child support order goes into effect.
Here’s everything you need to know about back child support in Texas. We’ll cover what it is, how courts decide to order it, and how to calculate the amount you could receive.
The Basics of Retroactive Child Support
In some situations, a custodial parent might not seek child support upon separation from their spouse or partner. And even when they do, it may take a significant amount of time for a formal child support order to go into effect. But the non-custodial parent’s responsibility to support their children still exists during that period. And that’s why retroactive payments exist.
In effect, a court will calculate the non-custodial parent’s child support liability for some or all of the time that the child was eligible for it before the support order. That amount will be added to the monthly support payment schedule in financially feasible increments for as long as it takes to pay the debt off.
How Texas Courts Order Back Child Support
It’s important to understand that Texas law doesn’t make back child support payments mandatory. But a court may order them if:
- The custodial parent was eligible for child support but the non-custodial parent wasn’t ordered to pay
- The non-custodial parent was not involved in a lawsuit that required child support payments as part of its resolution
In other words, as long as there was a legal basis for child support but no ordered payments, back child support might be ordered by a court. But the court doesn’t always order it, and they examine each case on its own merits to decide. The factors they consider include:
- The non-custodial parent’s awareness of their obligations toward their child
- The nature and frequency of attempts made to notify the non-custodial parent of their obligations
- The non-custodial parent’s financial condition during the period in question and at the time of the hearing
- How much, if any, support the non-custodial parent provided up to that point
- If the non-custodial parent would face financial hardship as a result of owing back child support
Because there are so many factors the court considers when examining a child support case, courts have a great deal of latitude when it comes to a retroactive child support order. They can find that the non-custodial parent owes the full amount of child support for the period in question, a reduced amount, or nothing at all.
How Child Support is Calculated
Texas law provides guidelines that govern the calculation of child support obligations. But the courts weigh the factors listed above as well as the resources of the non-custodial parent to come up with a figure in each case.
In general, child support is calculated to be 20% of the non-custodial parent’s monthly net resources for a single child. That amount increases based on the number of children up to a maximum of 40% for five or more children. Monthly net resources include monthly income from all sources, with a few limited exceptions.
And if the non-custodial parent’s monthly net resources exceed $9,200 (adjusted for inflation), the court is free to order higher payments at its discretion.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules that govern back child support in Texas. The guidelines in Texas law exist to give the courts a framework to keep their judgments consistent and fair although it’s rare for courts to deviate from guidelines, they can make determinations based on the specifics of a case that lead to much higher or much lower payments for a non-custodial parent.
The complexities of child support cases make it essential to consult an attorney to make sure that the resulting order works for everyone involved. And getting things right on the first try helps to take a situation that’s stressful for both parents and prevent it from becoming harder than it needs to be. After all, every parent wants to see their child’s best interest served and their needs met. So it’s worth whatever effort it takes.
Need Help With Child Support?
If you have questions about child support or any part of the divorce process, arrange a consultation with Vonda so she can give you the professional advice and assistance you need.