What is "guideline" child support?

Holding Hands

You may have heard of the term “guideline” child support, but what exactly does this term mean?

First, the term “guideline” child support refers to the amount of support you would pay (or, receive) according to guidelines set forth in chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code. For example, if you are ordered to pay child support for one child, then you would be considered the “obligor” and would pay 20% of your available net resources under Texas Family Code 154.125 (assuming you only have this one child to support).

You will note that this percentage is based off your net resources, not your gross resources. So, how are net resources determined? Net resources include the following:

(1) 100 percent of all wage and salary income and other compensation for personal services (including commissions, overtime pay, tips, and bonuses);

(2) interest, dividends, and royalty income;

(3) self-employment income;

(4) net rental income (defined as rent after deducting operating expenses and mortgage payments, but not including noncash items such as depreciation); and

(5) all other income actually being received, including severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits other than supplemental security income, United States Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits other than non-service-connected disability pension benefits, as defined by 38 U.S.C. Section 101(17), unemployment benefits, disability and workers’ compensation benefits, interest income from notes regardless of the source, gifts and prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.

Additionally, the Texas Family Code specifically defines what net resources does not include, which are:

(1) return of principal or capital;

(2) accounts receivable;

(3) benefits paid in accordance with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or another federal public assistance program; or

(4) payments for foster care of a child.

Once you define what the net resources would be, the following items are then deducted to determine what net resources available for child support:

(1) social security taxes;

(2) federal income tax based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deduction;

(3) state income tax;

(4) union dues;

(5) expenses for the cost of health insurance* or cash medical support for the obligor’s child ordered by the court under Section 154.182; and

(6) if the obligor does not pay social security taxes, nondiscretionary retirement plan contributions.

*Effective September 01, 2018, expenses for dental insurance are included

With some exceptions, the percentage of guideline child support is specifically designed to apply to situations in which the obligor’s monthly net resources are not greater than $7,500 or the adjusted amount as determined by the Title IV-D agency, as reviewed every 6 years. There is a possibility that this cap can be raised, but certain proven needs of the child must be shown – you should fully discuss your particular situation with your attorney to determine if you would be able to obtain above guideline child support.

As always, if you have questions about your particular situation, you should consult with an attorney experienced in child support matters. The attorneys at Justice Law Firm have years of experience with cases involving child support.