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Shared custody requires different calculation for child support

The traditional way that child support is handled in Texas is for the noncustodial parent to pay the custodial parent a certain amount on a monthly basis. This is calculated based on tables published by the state. They consider both parents' income, their expenses and other relevant factors. If the parents do not agree on the amount under the auspices of the county child support department, a hearing is scheduled in front of a family court judge and a support amount is ordered after the presentation of evidence.

However, some modifications in that general scenario are occurring due to evolving changes in family law philosophy. Here in Texas and in most states, there is now a prevailing policy that favors shared or joint custody of the minor children. This creates an equality of rights and duties of the parents that carries over also to child support determinations. It does not mean that each parent gets exactly 50 percent of the time with the child, but it does do away with  the concept of primary physical custody and sets up a joint sharing arrangement.

The shared custody concept is based on the predominant belief that this kind of arrangement will lead to better parental relationships with the children and to healthier children. Studies have consistently proved that keeping the father involved in the life of the children helps the children to maintain a better emotional disposition despite the trauma of divorce. Primary physical custody may still be ordered where there is abuse or neglect by one of the parents, or where the parties mutually agree to it.

The changed standard for custody brought changes in how child support is now calculated. One way is for each parent's gross income to be determined, and then multiplied by the percentage due for the number of children involved. The lower amount is then subtracted from the higher amount and that amount is paid by the higher earner for support. Other methods may be applicable, and the best way to determine one's child support obligation is to consult with a family law attorney who is experienced in child support litigation under Texas law.

Source:, "Child Custody and Support Continued", Teri Nehrenz, March 9, 2018

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