Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support

Q: How is child support calculated?

A: Child support is calculated as a percentage of the net monthly income of the obligor (person who pays child support).

Q: What is “net income”?

A: To determine this amount the court calculates the obligor’s total income from all sources and averages them over the course of a year, then divides that amount by 12.  (“All sources” means exactly that—regular wages and salary, return on investments, bonuses, income from a second job—everything.) From the total monthly gross income, the court will deduct any mandatory withholding (such as income tax, both state and federal, Social Security, union dues required for the obligor’s employment, and the actual cost of health insurance for the child).  What is left is the obligor’s net income.

Q: What if the obligor has other kids?  What effect does that have on the amount of child support?

A: The following chart shows the percentages.    The numbers across the top of the chart are the children “before the court:”–the children involved in this case only.  The numbers on the left side of the chart are other children that the obligor has a legal obligation to support.  These children must be the obligor’s biological children who live with him or her, or children for whom there is a court order requiring the obligor to support them.  It does not include, for example, step-children, or children in college.

For example, if you have 2 children and the obligor has a legal obligation to support one other child, the amount of child support the court will order is 22.5% of the obligor’s net monthly income.


Q: Is there any “wiggle room” in the child support?  Does it have to be for the full amount?  Can it be more or less?

A: There is a very long list of factors that the Court can consider in deciding whether to “deviate” from the guidelines.  Some of these considerations are the agreement of the parties, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, the cost of travel required for one parent to visit the children, and any special needs of the child.  Discuss this in detail with your attorney.

Q: How long does child support continue?

A: Until the child reaches the age of 18 and is out of high school.  If the child is still in school after the age of 18, child support will continue only if the child is enrolled in an accredited high school and attending full-time.  This time period may be extended if the child has special needs.

Q: Can the judge order the obligor to pay for college?

A: Probably not.  A parent’s obligation to support his child ends when the child turns 18.

Q: Does the child support have to be withheld from the obligor’s paycheck?

A: If the parties agree, the obligor can make direct payments to the Child Support Disbursement Unit in San Antonio rather than through a wage withholding order.  But a wage withholding order must still be signed by the judge, and if the obligor does not make the required payments on time, the wage withholding order will go into effect.

Q: Can the obligor just pay the obligee directly?

A: No.  By law, all child support must be paid through the Child Support Disbursement Unit in San Antonio.  The obligor cannot make payments directly to the obligee (person receiving child support).   If the two of you make a “side agreement” that the support will be paid directly,  the obligor may not get credit for those payments and may be subject to contempt of court for failure to pay.  Having the payments go through the disbursement unit protects everyone.

Q: The obligor gets paid every other week, and I’m getting less than the full amount of child support every month.  Why?

A: You are getting the full amount of child support, but it is spread out over a year.  Here’s how it works:  the total amount of child support per month is multiplied by 12 (the number of months in the year).  This amount is then divided by the total number of pay periods for the obligor.  For example:  Child support is $800 per month, or $9600 per year.  The obligor gets paid every other Friday, for 26 pay periods per year.  $9600 divided by 26 equals $369.23 per pay period.  If you just multiple this by two (the average number of pay periods per month), it looks like you’re only receiving $738.46 per month.  But there will be some months when you will receive three checks instead of two.  Over the course of a year, it comes out to $800 per month.

Q: I was ordered to pay child support, but I also pay for things like school clothes, diapers, and day care.  Why don’t I get credit for that towards my child support?

A: Anything you pay for outside of child support is considered a gift.  It is in addition to your child support obligation, not instead of.