In North Texas, there has been a growing trend towards awarding parents 50/50 possession schedules of their children (as opposed to the Standard Possession Order or a variation of it). The theory behind it is that children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Not all judges award 50/50. Some do and some do not while others take it on a case by case basis.
The next logical question then is how is child support handled with 50/50 custody? The short answer is the same as most answers in family law, it depends. It can depend on a few things, but mainly it depends on the judge.
Typical Child Support
In Texas, child support is typically awarded in accordance with the guidelines. You may hear an attorney just say that support will be “guidelines” or something similar. That means, the amount of child support paid is within the guidelines set forth in Section 154.121 and the following sections of the Texas Family Code. There’s a fairly simple formula laid out the Texas Legislature and that’s what the courts follow.
Child Support with 50/50 Possession
In Texas, there is no standard for how child support is allocated with 50/50 possession. Meaning there are no “guidelines” in the Texas Family Code for this. That gives judges a lot of discretion in determining how to set child support.
One way the courts can handle child support with 50/50 possession is to order one parent to pay the full amount of child support as if the other parent had primary custody of the children. This could be for different reasons. Some of those reasons can include a large income disparity or earning capacity of the parents, intentional unemployment or underemployment of a parent, child care expenses of a parent in order to maintain employment, or special needs of the child, or various other reasons. As previously stated, though, the judges do have a lot of discretion.
Offset Child Support
One popular method of setting child support with 50/50 custody is to “offset” the child support of each parent. This can be agreed between the parents or it can be ordered by the judge. That means the court will look at the amount each parent would pay if they were ordered to pay child support, then take the difference between the two.
In both examples below, the parents have 50/50 custody.
Father makes an income such that if he were ordered to pay child support he would pay $600/month.
Mother makes an income such that if she were ordered to pay child support she would pay $400/month.
In this case, the judge would take the difference between the two ($200) and order that Father pay Mother $200 per month in child support.
Mother makes an income such that if she were ordered to pay child support she would pay $1,500/month.
Father makes an income such that if he were ordered to pay child support he would pay $350/month.
In this case, the judge would take the difference ($1,150) and order that Mother pay Father $1,150 per month.
Again, there is no established standard for how judges must award child support when the parents have 50/50 possession. It’s up to the judge to decide how to handle it, and each judge has their own preference.
The alternative to leaving it to the judge’s decision is for the two parties to agree to child support themselves. If the two parties agree on how child support will be determined, then most likely the judge will approve of the agreed child support amount.
If you have questions regarding child support or need to modify an existing child support order, contact the family law attorneys at Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant at (940) 387-3518, or contact us here to set up a consultation.